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Black and White Swans in Swan LakeKirov 1990 dvd

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#16 Mel Johnson

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Posted 05 October 2007 - 02:39 PM

And of course there's the obvious allegorical element to the introduction of black swans in the last act, even if they are badly outnumbered. Too much yin, not enough yang. There's bad and good in the world, but these youngsters aren't any different from their elder sisters in terms of deportment, so don't judge your swan by the color of her feathers. As to the Act III Odile costume, I still think it's a midnight blue foundation, but remember in Tolkien, how Saruman (The White) is described as having a robe that is white only because it contains all colors and keeps moving. Something of this kind of optical illusion may have been on Ponomarev's mind. When Gandalf is carried away into the West, healed and retranslated to Middle-Earth, he is the true White Wizard with no tricks involved.

#17 mjbelkin



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Posted 05 October 2007 - 10:51 PM

I'd always assumed that the black swans in the final act were a sign of Seigfried's betrayal.

#18 bart


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Posted 06 October 2007 - 04:18 AM

There are apparently many possible explanations for the black-v-white costuming.

The question that occurs to me is: how effective can a symbolic visual effect be if it confuses most people -- actually distracting them from what is going on -- and requires reading program notes before the performance?

It seems to me that color symbolism such as that involving the mixed black-white swan in the corps merely puzzles or distracts audiences more than it moves or enlightens them. It seems imposed by the director from above rather than arising from the nature of the story itself. Doesn't this defeat the purpose?

Color symbolism in literature -- and thanks, Mel, for those references to the Tolkien books -- is another matter. A good writer can integrate explanation into his text in a way that someone creating from the stage cannot.

#19 Hans


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Posted 06 October 2007 - 05:03 AM

The cygnets in Act II are white, so there isn't much reason for them to turn black in Act IV.

#20 carbro


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Posted 06 October 2007 - 10:31 AM

I'd always assumed that the black swans in the final act were a sign of Seigfried's betrayal.

This symbolism resonates strongly with me.

#21 cubanmiamiboy


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Posted 06 October 2007 - 01:38 PM

The cygnets in Act II are white, so there isn't much reason for them to turn black in Act IV.

Totally agree...And then, is there any proof of the use of the black swans in the imperial days...any reference in the Sergueyev C.?

#22 ViolinConcerto


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Posted 07 October 2007 - 06:53 PM

An interesting rationale for the new look--

''Mr. Balanchine discussed the idea often and with many people,'' says Peter Martins, the company's co-ballet-master-in-chief. ''His choreography has been retained, of course, but with some small mathematical changes to accommodate the increased number of dancers.'' For this production, the number of swan maidens attending the Swan Queen has been increased from 22 to 28.

''Balanchine was very excited at the idea of the black swans,'' Mr. Kirstein recalls. ''He thought it might make us see the ballet again. Our 'Swan Lake' has never been traditional, anyway. Balanchine created it as an homage to Lev Ivanov, the choreographer of the lakeside acts. The idea always has been to challenge our received notions of 'Swan Lake' in order to discover the possibilities within the greatest score ever composed for a ballet. Actually, the score always has been the problem.''

Does anyone know how long it was performed this way? And why it was changed back to white?

It wasn't changed back to white, but Martins' full-length Swan Lake has (probably temporarily) replaced Mr. B's 1 act sort-of-synopsis. Probably some season in the not-too-distant future, they will bring back the one act, and the black swans will reappear.

#23 volcanohunter


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Posted 07 October 2007 - 10:02 PM

Though I've never taken the time to study the history of Swan Lake costuming, I can't imagine that the presence of black swans is completely unusual. A photograph of a student production of Swan Lake that my mother danced in in the 1950s shows both white and black swans in the corps. There must have been some precedent for this since I can't imagine Utica, New York, as a place for radical costuming innovation.

#24 rg


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Posted 08 October 2007 - 04:32 AM

the final act black-clad swan maidens have been in place since petipa & ivanov's production in 1895 - petipa's notes, quoted by wiley include a one-time plan to add 'rose colored' costuming to some of the ensemble in the final act.
since most productions in the west referred, at least early on, to the extant petipa/ivanov scheme, this detailing would have been included as a matter of course when budget allowed.
there is a striking photo of a very young vera trefilova in a black swan maiden costume, complete w/ black tights, black toeshoes and unbound hair, in a cat. of historic opera/ballet images from an exhibit celebrating the maryinsky - 1783 - 2003.
so the initial appearance of these dark-toned swan maidens seems to have been for adolescent, student dancers.

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