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This article originally appeared in the Culture section of Bloomberg News on June 30, 2006.

June 30 (Bloomberg) — Ballerinas in peril headline the final weeks of American Ballet Theatre’s current season at the Metropolitan Opera House. Before the company’s run ends on July 15, they’ll be continually menaced by death itself, and fates worse than death.

This weekend, Michele Wiles, Paloma Herrera and Julie Kent — who will mark her 20th year with ABT on July 14 –alternate in the dual role of the poetic Odette and the dazzling Odile in ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie’s version of “Swan Lake.”

Odette, foolish enough to talk to a seductive stranger when she’s out picking flowers, soon discovers the handsome fellow’s a demon. He abducts her, transforms her into a swan and adds her to his flock of similarly guileless maidens.

Pure-hearted Prince Siegfried arrives to save her. The next minute, Siegfried’s duped into believing the demon’s daughter, Odile, is his beloved. Soon, hero and heroine are leaping from a cliff to their death.

At the close of the 19th century, Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, abetted by Tchaikovsky’s score, made poetry out of this weird and violent tale.

The pastoral heroine of Frederick Ashton’s 1952 “Sylvia” is a huntress “chaste and fair.” She resists even the respectful overtures of her shepherd suitor, only to be carried off by a robber named Khan, who woos her with his ill-gotten riches, implicitly threatening rape.

Bravura Feet

Cupid arrives in the nick of time to ensure an upbeat ending. The authoritative Gillian Murphy, the athletic Wiles, the sultry Herrera and the romantically delicate Kent take turns in the title role on July 3, July 5 matinee, July 5 evening and July 6, respectively.

Pirates abound in “Le Corsaire,” a 19th-century concoction memorable largely for its bravura feats, which have been ratcheted up by generations of increasingly adept technicians.

The ladies must be almost as daring as the men and sexy to boot, as will be seen July 7 (Herrera and the piquant Xiomara Reyes) and twice on July 8 (Wiles and Maria Riccetto at the matinee, Irina Dvorovenko and Stella Abrera in the evening).

July 10 to 15 is wall-to-wall “Romeo and Juliet,” in Kenneth MacMillan’s emotionally extravagant version. The first two Juliets will be Diana Vishneva and Alessandra Ferri, both acclaimed for their dramatic power.

Familiar Plot

Everyone knows the plight of this heroine: put on the marriage market before she’s done playing with dolls, promised to a guy her parents pick, fated to fall in love at first sight with the scion of their mortal enemies, and so on. After increasingly trying and bloody events, suicide seems a relief.

The bouquets presented to ABT’s much-beleaguered ballerinas will have been well-earned.

© 2006 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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