Wednesday, January 6

Ugly Duckling or Swan

Which would you rather be?

Though one becomes the other, most would pick a swan and skip the ugly duckling part. After what I saw Tuesday night, as long as the swans move me to misty eyed awe, I don’t care which one I am.

Tchaikovsky wrote Swan Lake (1875) with a chorus of swans who all represented womanhood in its purest form (typically the ballet did not become well loved until after Tchaikovsky’s death). The swans are all disciplined, all beautiful, all desirable, all graceful but only one leader: Odette/Odile. Odette the queen swan and Odile, her evil twin (both danced by the same prima ballerina during the performances). She was the swan above all others who led the group and who won the heart of Prince Siegfried (insert heavily noted and delightful music, tragic love, and an ending of tears and sorrow here).

120 years later, Matthew Bourne demolishes the Russian ballet’s history, and changes the beautiful gaggle of tutu clad, adored, classical spinning female swans, into a swarming mass of muscular, beak pecking, modern moving, broad winged male swans. Including the lead role as the tallest of all the male swans (Bourne's lead swan role was used by the makers of the Billy Elliot movie in 2000). Bourne also modifies the plot and turns the heterosexual love story of the swan and Prince, into a two male lead with homosexual under and over tones.

I loved every movement, note, character, reference and minute of it!

The classical dance mixed with the modern movements; the hilarious potential girlfriend as they mock classical ballet; the sadness of a Prince’s desire to receive a physical manifestation of love from his frosty mother; this lack of love being transferred into a love dream for a beautiful swan; a swan who appears a second time as a seductive lady’s man, rejecting any familiarity with the Prince; the flailing wings and arms of the dancers; the moonlight beaming on the gaggle of swans; the pas de deux between two men; the reference to the 1970’s – 1980’s electric shock treatment given to men to ‘cure’ their homosexuality.  All so new, exciting and exhilarating!

Now that the swans have danced for me and I adore them, the question becomes, how many more times can I go to their performances before it all ends on January 24? 

(The pictures interspersed within the words
are pictures I have taken of swans in Europe,
July – December 2009.)


  1. I was there in the Cotswalds with you when you took that last picture. You stand at the side of a small creek with your camera and swans come around the corner without any cue. How do you do it, Tonia?

  2. My soul called out to the winged ones, and they appeared. It happens often. It comes naturally. ;)