A funny, poignant, very masculine ‘Swan Lake’

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A funny, poignant, very masculine ‘Swan Lake’

If you’ve seen the film “Billy Elliot,” in which a little boy in a dreary coal town grows up to become a professional ballet dancer, you’ll likely recall the unforgettable last scene of the film where the ballerino, with a black line drawn on his forehead, takes to the stage in Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”
If you found this scene fascinating and wanted to see more of his dancing after the film was over, a perfect chance to enjoy the full “Swan Lake,” performed by male dancers, will be available in Seoul starting next week.
From Tuesday through May 29 at the LG Arts Center, Matthew Bourne and his dance company will be performing in Korea for the second time since 2003, when the company drew an enthusiastic response from Korean audiences who were familiar with traditional “feminine” ballet performances until then.
“Swan Lake,” one of the most beloved romantic ballets, turns into a witty, poignant, modern piece in the hands of Bourne, a well-known choreographer who has assembled a male corps de ballet.
Given the masculinity of the dancers, the performance features powerful moves, as well as humor and mime, providing no room for boredom.
The original tale has been updated to make it more relevant to modern audiences. The main character, a prince of the British royal family in the 1950s, is insecure and rather weak-minded after being raised by a cold, disciplinarian mother, the queen. As a child, he had nightmares about a menacing swan.
After growing up, the prince encounters a swan in a lake. The swan he meets is the symbol of power, beauty and freedom, which the prince desires. The two fall in love, and the prince thinks he has found a soulmate. Some critics view the swan as the prince’s alter ego. However, as time goes by, the two painfully realize that they cannot exist in each other’s world.
Leil Westmoreland, and Christopher Marney, who play the sensitive and complicated character of the prince, are known for their highly expressive acting technique. Both have also been traditional ballet dancers for a long time.
The swan is played by masculine and powerful-looking dancers Jose Tirado and Jason Piper, both of whom are heartthrobs on the ballet scene.
However, the most important element of the ballet is what everyone wants to see ― the dancing.
The ensemble of well-built male dancers presents a totally different perspective on the traditional ballet, where slim female dancers appear to fly on stage. With their powerful turns and jumps, the swans are neither fragile princess nor femme fatale.
Since its premiere in 1995, Matthew Bourne’s “Swan Lake” has been acclaimed as a landmark achievement on the international stage by being the longest-running ballet in London’s West End and on Broadway, and winning more than 30 international awards, including the Laurence Olivier Award and a Tony Award.

by Choi Sun-young

“Swan Lake will be presented at the LG Arts Center until May 29. Ticket prices range from 40,000 won ($40) to 100,000 won. Performances are at 8 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday. No performance on Mondays. For more information, call the LG Arts Center at (02) 2005-0114 or e-mail arts2005@lgart.com.
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