What do you think of when you think of Ballet?
Does it conjure visions of stiff tutus and pointe shoes on tiny ballerinas, of tights and hair buns? And maybe after all that, then Tchaikovsky (Chai coff ski – nah not the latest drink craze, the most famous Russian composer from the Romantic period, duh!).
Tchaikovsky is responsible for creating one of the most famous ballets of all time too, and it’s one I’m sure you have heard of before, it’s called Swan Lake.
And whether you’ve seen it or know the story well, I’m pretty sure we all have a similar image in our heads, of the Swans doing their thing on stage.
Something like that, right? (above).
In 1995, Matthew Bourne, a choreographer from London did something to change that image and turned the classical dance inside out forever.
In Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, whilst Tchaikovsky’s score remains and most of the plot, there are some glaring differences. The dance is beautifully pulled and twirled, then lifted into a very passionate and at times, very dark, modern production.
The glaring difference? Well, it’s hardly a spoiler as it’s all over the posters and advertising malarkey for the production. The Swan, THE swan and all the swans are performed by male dancers.
Spoiler (maybe): The prince is still played by a man too.
This is a fairytale for now.
What I witnessed last night at Milton Keynes theatre was an emotional rollercoaster.
I am not going to give away the plot, I do urge you to go see it for yourselves but I will say, it’s unsettling. This is not just a tale of love and heartbreak. It’s about mental health, it’s about trying to find yourself, it’s about keeping up appearances for others instead of nurturing ourselves.
And male swans? Well they looked the most beautiful and majestic dancers I think I have ever seen. There’s a certain famous dance piece that they dance which is phenomenal. Man or swan, they blur the lines with their strength and movement. It was BEAUTIFUL.
Their strength was captivating. Real swans are strong. They’re a strong animal. And to write a tale of someone condemned to live within a swans body, they may well have lost their human form but that does not mean they are weak. This comes across brilliantly!
There is also some great moments of humour, which gives your heart a break before the cast come back to crush it again.
I now can’t wait to see more Matthew Bourne productions. What a choreographer. What a dance company he has brought together. And maybe mostly, what an inspiration to male dancers he has given to the world. I promise you, you won’t miss the tutus and pointe shoes, one. little. bit.
Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake (The Return) is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 2nd February.
I was invited and gifted tickets to see the performance from Milton Keynes Theatre as part of their press night. MK Theatre has no say in what I do/do not publish, nor are they paying me for my words. These are all mine baby and it was a pleasure.