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Flash! New spin on Swan Lake in Australia!


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WHAT an original idea. The 999th (give or take a few) new and improved Swan Lakes.

Read about this one (I've copied this from Links) and see what you think.

Australian Ballet's new production of Swan Lake, set to open later this week, will put a new spin on the old work.

"Tchaikovsky's music is full of love and pain and tragedy, but most productions turn Swan Lake into a form of kabuki theatre, peopled by waxworks that go through ritualised moves without any emotion. The audience doesn't relate to it. You can't weep for an Odette who is nothing but a beautiful ballerina who can stand on point for ever."
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That's the quote that Ari pulled out for Links, and it's the one that struck me, too. WHO are these people, making ballets and assuming that their audience doesn't like ballet?

There are other points in the article about the changes that "must" be made to make "Swan Lake" relevant to our times. All the wrong ones, IMO. What do you think?

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I'm kinda intrigued. It so happens that I was recently thinkiing about Swan Lake and tutus and how stilted it sometimes looks. (Whoa! That bullet came close. Gotta hunker down in this trench.) I'm not sure Australia's new Swan Lake is an answer but I'd like to see a stirred up production. Now I must admit that the phrase "the choreography pays homage to Petipa and Ivanov" sent chills down my spine, and the lack of peasants (or any non-royals, as I understand it) does make one take pause. And where the heck DID they put that black swan pdd? But oh, my; that dress! If nothing else I want to see that dress.


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Alexandra--my response to your original post was too cute by half.

What I meant to say is "What idiot thinks that you can't weep for an Odette who is nothing but a beautiful ballerina who can stand on point for ever", since I have, on more than one occasion, been so moved by the sheer beauty of a ballerina doing ballerina stuff that I have wept.

If that makes any more sense.

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While I pretty much agree with what has been said, I do have a lingering question about the value of traditional productions of the classics done ... well ... barely adequately. I assume the Australian ballet is pretty good -- I would love to hear from members of their audience -- but it's overly optimistic to assume that the traditional Swan Lake they are NOT doing would necessarily have been that emotionally inspiring.

As a little girl, I WAS moved by seeing a regional company doing fairly traditional versions of the classics in performances that I would nowadays consider worse than mediocre. But they noticeably avoided Swan Lake, and until their final years when they had really raised standards, they avoided Sleeping Beauty. I think for a company that cannot carry off a traditional production of Swan Lake, a good solution would be the very old fashioned one of just working up a good performance of Act II, whose greatness can survive less than great performances. (I do understand, though, that ballet companies today want 'full length' ballets. And, of course, the Australian company may well be capable of dancing a traditional production properly.)

Acts I and III when anything less than fabulous can be boring, and often are. I don't believe that it is just ignorant audiences with no interest in ballet who watch these acts secretly waiting for the 'real' dancing to begin...The Kirov's version of the Spanish dance (which I believe is soviet choreography anyway) or the Bolshoi's -- under Grigorovich -- of the Act I Waltz suggest at least the elements of a 'traditional' Swan Lake worth reviving.

Obviously, those two productions also have problems, and are (were) in some respects not at all traditional. But the traditions they enshrine include soviet bits that, in my opinion, work quite wonderfully. For me that is another argument in favor of being a little more lenient towards at least the idea of updating the classics. Most of us would prefer Act I jester free but would we really prefer Bayadere without the Chabukiani inserts? There IS a response to this argument which is that the Soviets began with a respect for ballet tradition, so their updates were often continuous with the tradition in a way that allows them to preserve as well as enhance these ballets (or just keep them alive) for the theater. Perhaps that should be the ultimate criterion.

Otherwise -- with all the coaching, rehearsing, and training in the world I am not sure that it's always such a good use of resources for a company to offer its pale imitation of a 'traditional' production. On the other hand, if a company can pull off an imaginative commentary on the tradition that showcases its own dancers -- I don't find that so troubling.(From one of the posts about this production, I infer the Baroness von Rothbart is meant as an allusion to Camilla Parker Bowles -- I actually thought that was an amusing idea, and appropriately sly for the national company of a country that is still a member of the commonwealth.)

I think it feels very troubling (even to me) nonetheless because a)most of us are worried that pretty soon there won't be any company maintaining the classics as such and b)it seems to encourage the generally silly view -- exemplified in the quoted remark to which everyone has been responding -- that ballet has no expressive value at all.

Anyway, I'm not going to vote against any production until I see what it actually looks like. (And I did love the dress in the photo.)

I'm a little worried this reads like playing Devils' advocate. Personally I would love to see ABT revive David Blair's production with new sets and costumes! So really I couldn't be more traditional...

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Guest Sassybeaver

I am one to always push for the truest to form classics. Their beauty is in the traditon as well as the steps. However, you can always freshen a classic with new costume ideas and sets(make the costumes more swanlike or do something with the lake). At my school, OCHSA, the classical department is doing the second act. I was watching the rehearsal of the pas de deux and it was beautiful. Even in a small space and no costumes and the teacher giving corrections, I was in awe because the interpritation was beautiful. So just my two cents worth.


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excuse me... but as an 'aussie', i just have to speak up and say that this re-hash (i hope it's NOT 'hash'-ed) is the work of choreographer (and artistic director of sydney dance company), graeme murphy.

his works are intelligent, sometimes deep, aesthetically very pleasing, often playful, (usually hugely flawed somewhere, IMO) but ALWAYS interesting - and with an inevitable brilliance which IS 'graeme'...

i haven't seen this production, yet, and i have only skimmed the article (linked above) about frederickson - but i just have to speak up for 'graeme's' right, so to speak, to approach another classic, with his always fresh vision - "for better or worse"!

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I haven't seen much Graeme Murphy -- lots of his pieces for Torvill and Dean, when he was working with them awhile back, some of which I liked, some not. I do remember -- I think; hope I have this right -- a Daphnis and Chloe, though, that I thought was awful. Bikers for pirates. Either fun, or sensationalist, depending on your point of view.

Of course, I can't comment on the production since I haven't seen it either. My objection was to the interview, and the assumption that the audience doesn't "relate" to the more traditional productions. (And I think on this issue generally, it's almost as though there are two aesthetic/political parties: keep to the spirit of the original, and the text, as far as is known; or change it as you like and the only thing that matters is whether it works or not.)

Several people who have seen this have commented that it was interesting -- and wished that it had been done to different music, and called something else, so that the "is it Swan Lake" issue wouldn't be an issue.

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