Starting in the late Eighties, a growing number of choreographers became fascinated with deconstructing old classical ballets, and offering completely new renditions, with more relevant contemporary perceptions of form and content.
British choreographer Matthew Bourne contributed his share, but his all-male production of Swan Lake turned out to be an unprecedented global hit.
Bourne took the classic, romantic fairy tale and planted in it a dramatic, rather dark storyline about a miserable prince with serious mother issues, a victim of emotional neglect and a feeble constitution. On the night he had planned to drown himself in the lake, a flock of gorgeous male swans comforts him, giving him their attention, and new options. Enamored of the main man-swan, that virile, sexy, powerful creature, free of convention, he hopes to change his luck – yet we know that disaster lurks around the corner.
While the dramatic conflicts of the original story depend on external factors, here, we follow an inner journey of the soul, a Freudian nightmare, where obsessions replace tender love, and there is no solace in the cards for the prince. In the horrid final scene, devoured by his imagined swans, he is that sickly lad, friendless, motherless and futureless.
Bourne, who created several other renditions of classical ballets, struck gold with Swan Lake, becoming the first and only choreographer whose huge hit ballet moved from dance venues to Broadway, winning over massive audiences.
Over 20 years later, one can still sense the enormous appeal of this ballet. Structurally, it is based on the solid foundation of the original, and its content includes wide-ranging and complex references to contemporary issues. The choreographic compositions are often brilliant, and with the fine cast of acting dancers, it remains an excellent, artistic and entertaining work.