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Dying Swan character curiosity


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#1 vicarious

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Posted 19 February 2008 - 11:48 PM

My daughter is learning the Dying Swan and as a result I've gotten curious about it. I've done a bit of reading and watching.

There seem to be a number of ideas on what the character of the dying swan is. I've read that Maya Plisetskaya danced it as an "old swan hanging on resisting death." The video I saw of her seemed more like a classy middle aged woman who is bound and determined to beat cancer but finally dies fighting. After reading the story of Pavlova on her death bed I thought the swan would have more of a peaceful resignation and acceptance of death. When I read the article about De Valois and the Dying Swan, I thought of a purely innocent, late adolescent that has become a tragic victim of circumstances (the current). The video I saw of Makarova seemed young and tragic. What other ways has the swan been depicted?

Some lines from Tennyson's poem get me thinking about the character also are "joy hidden in sorrow," "low and full and clear," "prevailing in weakness," "awful jubilant voice", and "loudly did it lament."

Now for the story. In your own story was the swan shot, caught by the current, dying of old age, injured or something else?

If the swan were a woman now, who would she be? What would be her story? A teenager dying in a hospital after being in a car accident? An elderly woman on her death bed who had lived a full life?

What do you think?

By the way was the story about Pavlova on her death bed asking for her tutu and the music true? Why did she name her swan Jack?

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 06:49 AM

The Swan's character is originally dictated in Saint-SaŽns' music in the suite "Carnival of the Animals". There is a poetic notion that swans remain silent during their lifetimes, and only sing when it is time to die, when they take off, and as they disappear from sight, they sing a melodious song. Now, I don't know where the medievals got this notion. The European swans are of two varieties, the Mute (which hisses) and the Trumpeter (which barks). Neither of them sing anything worth recording ever, so the "swan song" is just another version of "pathetic fallacy", where nature seems to match an emotional situation. What the particular swan is dying from is up to the ballerina. I have yet to see one die of ulcerative colitis, but it wouldn't be pretty!

#3 Paul Parish

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Posted 20 February 2008 - 09:08 AM

Pavlova's way of dancing hte swan can be seen on youtube -- enter "Pavlova swan" in hte search box, and hte RUL will come up - it is incredibly powerful performance, very simple, she bourrees and falls and gets back up and bourrees and falls and gets back up, 4 times, each time it gets more urgent. Nobody else makes it so dramatic.

#4 vicarious

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Posted 21 February 2008 - 11:22 AM

First let me say, I don't know what I'm talking about. Just discovering here.

Yes, I saw a couple of Pavlova videos on youtube. This may be heresy but I prefer Plisetkaya or Makarova. I didn't believe Pavlova's character, but maybe it was just the film quality. The other two though different from each other as well as Pavalova, left me with a feeling about the swan as well as the dancing. They weren't dancing as a swan they were showing me the swan's heart and mind.

I do prefer Pavalova and Makarova's bourrees over Plisetkaya's. Theirs are tighter. Plisetkaya has a longer stride. I don't know what the time signature for the bourrees would be but it seems like Plisetkaya is doing a series of say a dotted sixteenth followed by a thirty-second. Where as the other two are doing all thirty seconds. Does what I'm saying making any sense?


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