Matthew Bourne, director and choreographer of Adventures in Motion Pictures--a maverick new modern dance company based in London--brings a new twist to an old classic with this production of "Swan Lake." Taking advantage o... more »f the public's preoccupation with the ups and downs of the royal family, Bourne has set his story in the modern era and has cast all the swans--including the Odette/Odile role--as males. Boutne's creation brings great ballet to an audience it has never before reached, and for cognoscenti offers a new view of the breadth of possibilty in Tchaikovsky's well-loved score. "Swan Lake" enjoyed a sold-out run in London and a subsequent critically acclaimed and public-adored Broadway stint.« less
"Finally, Matthew Bourne's innovative production of Tchaikovsky's SWAN LAKE is available on DVD. This is not a camp send-up of the balletic war horse, but a modern, freshly imagined telling of a tale of enchantment, betrayal, disenchantment, and release. What most people already know about this production is that the swans and cygnets are performed by male dancers, that the choreography emphasizes the aggressive rather than the graceful movements in swans' repertoire, and that the story is heavily freighted with Freudian implications as it shows a young prince's efforts to break free of his mother's hold (she's part Merry Widow and part Cruella deVil). The viewer who tries to analyze plot points too carefully is heading toward frustration and confusion. (For those who just can't let it alone, there's a helpful on-screen synopsis you can jump to whenever you need it.) The best way to enjoy this production is by focusing on the choreography and the dancing itself. Adam Cooper's nameless Swan is powerful, persistent, and unapologetic. He could be the prince's alter ego, his embodied desires, the id, or just about anything else you'd want to ascribe to him. He woos son and mother with equal conviction. Besides the moments when Cooper is on stage/screen, the choreographic hightlight of this production for me was the dance of the cygnets (pas de quatre). This is a moment of levity in every production of SWAN LAKE, but more so here where the mischievous antics and curiosity of the cygnets are played for all they're worth.The other thing worth commenting on is the quality of the filming of this live performance. I have usually been disappointed by ballets on film--presentation is often static, or feet and hands get cut out of the picture, or the camera goes in for a close-up at a point when something significant is happening in the choreography. Given the trade-offs, Adventures in Motion Pictures has done an excellent job of capturing all the key choreography while creatively managing close-ups, transitions, and montages. The colors are rich and expressive (the dance of the swans by the lake is bathed in a haunting nocturnal blue). And best of all, the film is completely free of the annoying halos and bizarre shimmerings that always seem to make their way into filmed stage productions."
A Brilliant Re-Intrepretation
Bruce Aguilar | Hollywood, CA | 08/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was amazed when I saw this preformance in NYC and I'm so glad it has been preserved on DVD. I'm equally impressed that the way in which it was filmed really makes you feel like you're still in the audience watching it and not just watching a music video. Close ups and camera movements are used but I never felt like I was missing something happening off camera. Also, audience applause, coughs and laughter can be heard throughout. That's right, you read that correctly, laughter in a ballet. There are many instances where comedy has been inserted into the piece and I couldn't be more delighted. It's handeled effrotlessly by the cast and story and adds to the human connection I feel for the production. It never feels forced. And comedy is not the last ime you might be caught off guard durring this ballet. There are political overtones, fantastic sets, an outrageous bar scene, and of course, the male swans.By changing the swans to males, Mathew Bourne has infused this tale with overtones never imagined. The swans here are very athletic and much more bird-like in their movements. It's a daring move and one that adds many new overtones and a raw energy to the story. It's the single most daring element in a production that's all about taking risks and trying new things.The DVD comes with a small bookett that includes, credits, a synopsis, an interview with and biography of Mathew Bourne. I can't imagine someone who likes dance not being completely swept away by this incredible production. Watch it once and you'll want to see it over and over again even though it's magic will stay with you forever."
A Great Ballet In A Brilliant New Light
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 09/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hold on to your lids, kids, a traditional Swan Lake this is not. Matthew Bourne, probably Britain's greatest younger choreographer, has reset the old and great ballet into a tale of British royal satire, repressed sexuality and just plain human longing for comfort and protection. And if you've heard about this version, it is definitely not all male; there are plenty of female dancers around. The Swan Queen, however, is now The Swan King. The corps de ballet who form The Swan King's court, traditionally delicate swan maidens in white tutus, are now bare-chested, muscular male swans with mean, dark-shadowed eyes, twitching heads and hair combed to a dark point down their foreheads. They wear something like feathered leggings from waist to knee.
The traditional Swan Lake story has the young prince encountering an enchanted princess, human by night, a swan by day, who can only have the spell broken by true love. The prince swears his devotion, but is tricked by the sorcerer into thinking another is The Swan Queen. He realizes his mistake, but it's too late. He rushes to the lake, finds The Swan Queen and joins her in death but reunited in love.
In Bourne's version it is Britain in the Fifties. We meet the young prince as a fearful child, dominated by his unfeeling mother, the Queen, and manipulated by the Queen's evil press secretary. The lonely boy finds comfort only by imagining a brave swan who will protect him and look over him. Ten years later the prince still is dominated by his mother, who has scarcely aged. He thinks he loves a young woman who is considered unsuitable by the Queen. She announces she will hold a ball and introduce him to proper candidates. Eventually in a drunken, repressed rage, he finds himself on the shores of a park lake. As in a dream he encounters The Swan King and the King's court of male swans. The ball is held, but the press secretary introduces the Queen to his own son, who looks just like The Swan King. The Queen announces she will marry him. The prince strikes his mother, he is confined and apparently operated on. In a delirium he encounters the real Swan King again, who protects him from the male swans who have appeared around his bed. The end of the ballet has the Prince dead on the floor. The Swan King stands high above the bed, holding in his arms the body of the Prince as a child.
The two great dance set pieces are the divertissement of the second act, where the Prince meets the Swan King and the male swans, and the Queen's Ball where all the manipulations and angst come to a head. If nothing else, the divertissement is worth the price of the disc. This is choreography and dance of the highest order. Tchaikovsky's music, so well-known and so great, has never seemed fresher. At times playing against political satire, at other times playing against a completely revisionist view of what a corps de ballet should be, the lush, romantic music turns out to be a wonderful counterpoint to Bourne's muscular choreography.
While one can argue (I would) that the ballet is as much about the Prince's repressed sexuality as it is his loneliness, this aspect is understated. The ballet is full of prostitutes, paparazzi, sailors and princesses on the make. The Queen bears a resemblance, perhaps unintentional, to a Joan Collins-like woman who keeps boy toys amongst her palace guard. The palace ball reeks of casual, corrupt omni-sexuality.
Adam Cooper dances The Swan King. He's a handsome, tough-looking guy who carries off the part with style. Scott Ambler dances The Prince and is just as good. The DVD's picture and audio are first-rate. There is an informative insert which includes an interview with Matthew Bourne. I recommend this disc highly for those who like ballet, Tchaikovsky, great choreography and great dancing -- and who might appreciate a startling new look at things."
This Lives Up To The Live Performance!!!
Andre Merritt | New York ,New York | 09/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After having to wait what seems like forever for this production to be released here in the states and on DVD,all I can say is...WOW!I was quite fortunate to have seen this production in London.It took myself and my companions by storm.Friends who don't like ballet were stunned that it was not all tutus and prima ballerinas.When it was available on video in this country I snapped up a copy and was pleased that my memory had not failed me.When I ran across the DVD,I picked it up.To my happy suprise the DVD,whether it be from the enhance picture or sound it is so incredibly true to seeing it live.Even the people who I've shown it to who are not ballet devote's,love it.YOU WILL NOT BE SORRY IN YOUR PURCHASE OF THIS!!!"
"I have followed ballet for many years, and have long grown tired of the repetitive nature of story ballets. This Swan Lake has turned the genre upside down with a most illuminating reinvention of a classic. The video captures most of the passion and emotion, as well as the psychological aspects, as well as the beauty of the choreography. I was fortunate to see this cast dance Swan Lake live in NYC. The video does them justice. Only one question: Where is the DVD?"