A Thing Of Deep, Crushing Beauty - Gender Swapped 'Swan Lake' Hits Dublin

Matthew Bourne's much admired spin on the classic plays in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre.

A Thing Of Deep, Crushing Beauty - Gender Swapped 'Swan Lake' Hits Dublin

For the new and uninitiated, if you want to watch a powerful story of longing unfold and told like it is a thing of deep, crushing beauty, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is the show for you. It’s also entertaining, funny, sexy and stylish. And it features a mechanical corgi.

First staged in Sadler’s Wells theatre in London in 1995, it’s the longest running ballet EVER in London’s West-End and on Broadway and has been performed around the globe from Singapore to Russia.

The show takes its broad outline from the original ballet Swan Lake and it is best known for having the traditional female parts of the swans danced by men. The sensual pas de deus between the lead male swan and the prince in Act Two caused a stir in its earlier years.

Matthew Bourne is a big Tchaikovsky fan and always felt that the story of Swan Lake was big enough to hold a new re-interpretation. “If you take on something like this, it has to come from being revered, it has to come from love,” he says. And come from love it does. The dancers in this show grew up with Bourne’s version of Swan Lake as an inspiration in their own lives and it shows in how the dancers invest in the story and in the immersive passion of the dance itself.

The cast of 40 dancers (each performing two or three roles) perform strongly and pull you in, whether dancing solo or in groups. And all the while, we watch the story of the prince evolve, his ache to be loved and seen by his mother, his reaching out, his lostness, his search for freedom and his struggle.

But it is the swans that get me every time. How they move, their muscularity and wildness. What they promise in their energy, their gentleness and their strength, the power of their community, their group movements and the viscousness of their hissing and mania when they turn. Swan Lake is deeply sexy.

Matthew Bourne doesn’t deny that this is a gay ballet. It IS a gay ballet. But he maintains that the story of the physical and emotional connection between the prince and the lead swan doesn’t always tell the whole story. It is also about the human need to be loved and we watch the prince try to get close to his mother and get pushed away every time. Distance surrounds him in all his social gatherings. In some scenes, he is invisible and there is a palpable ache watching this happen. Into this breech of longing comes the lead swan surrounded by the dance of the swans. When he wraps his arms around the prince, we see and feel the possibility of hope and redemption surround us. The swan’s dance bring the promise of freedom but in this story, as often in life, there is a price to pay for the search for freedom and desire.

You just have to see this show to find out what happens next.

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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