Praise the student discount!
There’s something beautiful about this ballet that is almost indescribable, and I realized it was so hard to draw out for an audience in words because that’s what ballet is. If you’ve never been to one of these performances, you clap between dance numbers and nobody talks. Not even in the play. So storyline can be very hard to follow.
And let’s be honest: if I didn’t know the story of Swan Lake beforehand, I wouldn’t understand this story…at all. Maybe a little, but nah.
Starting off, consider the fact that this ballet was performed by Russian ballet dancers who don’t speak English. I thought it was pretty amazing that both cultures (American and Russian) could understand this play because the ability to speak certain languages was not needed. Universal motions like hand gestures and bird-like arm waves make it very difficult not to understand some of the things that are happening.
Yet, at the same time, you still get to see different cultures immerse into an American ballet tour because every culture has a different outtake on music and the arts. I’ll get into this more later.
So, if you don’t know what Swan Lake is, here’s the gist. Basically, there’s this prince who falls in love with a girl, who is swan by day and woman by night: this is a curse by a powerful wizard named Rothbart. In order to break this curse, the prince has to tell the world of his undying love to this girl, Odette, but Rothbart tricks him by making his daughter, Odeal, seduce him instead. He professes his love for her, the wrong girl, which leaves Odette in a pretty shitty position and he feels terrible. So, the only way to be with the one he loves is for both of them to kill themselves, which immediately kills Rothbart because he has no power to feed off of anymore.
Now, I’m going to do my usual numeric list of my perceptions of the performance:
- Ballet has very different plot lines than anything I’ve seen before. I’ve had my fair share of movies, musicals, plays, etc. But, the etiquette and the story behind a ballet is obviously made for a very polite, formal, and distinct taste. Like I said above, you don’t clap after the whole play is over; you clap between numbers. There are a lot of fillers within a ballet, where a composer like Tchaikovsky wants moments in the performance when the music and dancing are appreciated aside from the main plot. I’m a pianist myself, and I’ve learned that for every song I had to perform, there had to be a sort of story line behind it for me to be able to play it effectively. And, this was a very good performance, in my opinion, so I’m guessing the director did have a motive or a story that he told his cast to think through before they performed on stage. The fun part for me, then, was to figure out what the little stories were behind each dance number. Especially the ones that seemed like asides, tricksters, and completely irrelevant from the story.
And, then, I realized that these weren’t just random fillers – they built the plot subtlety by creating a strong setting and theme to the air that made it easy for any audience to understand better (maybe to compensate for the lack of words).
- This was more about the Prince than the Swan. Which was interesting. When you first here the phrase “Swan Lake”, you would think it’s about the Swan and her lake. And if you’re not thinking that, you would think it’s mainly about the Swan and her struggle to break her curse.
The more you look into this plot, the more you see that Swan Lake isn’t about the Swan. The theme song (if you don’t know it, look it up on YouTube) is only played when the Prince is alone on stage or is performing alone; it symbolizes his struggle with himself and with the pressure in his life. He’s probably got the most character development.
To start off with, his mother wants him to find a bride, where he ends up just wandering around not liking anyone. And, then, he almost shoots this girl he likes with an arrow because he thinks she’s a swan. Also, there’s the fact that the only girls he loves is a swan…either way, he’s responsible for fixing that curse. Once he screws it up, he feels extremely shitty (I mean, who wouldn’t?) and does everything he can to fix it.
Now, that sounds like the biggest struggle in this play. If I was responsible for breaking someone else’s curse, I would be pretty messed up, too.
- Universal understandings can be found in simple and repetitive gestures. It’s hard to describe dance through words, especially for people who have never taken a dance class (cough cough). But, when you see certain hand gestures and movements being made, you can usually guess what they are by correlating it to the mood of the scene. Which is so great because they give a sort of “rhetorical power” to movement.
There’s also this easy way of understanding this language through their use of colors and scenery: you can tell when they’re at the Prince’s palace and you can tell when they’re at a lake (although the dying scene at the end didn’t look like they were dying…which is something they should work on). The colors give the audience a basic understanding of what’s going on: white is good and black is bad. And, these performers enhance these binary oppositions through exaggerated movements…which again, is hard for me to describe.
So my only suggestion for this is to just go watch this performance.
- It’s scary that everything in this performance is beautiful. Especially when there is so much danger and deception involved. I think your best bet at understanding how this applies to Swan Lake is through the movie, “Black Swan”, even though the plots aren’t really the same.
It’s a strange dichotomy. Dance is considered to be very beautiful and dainty, especially ballet. Even Odeal, who is the “evil twin”: her movements are not harsh, but more passionate and they are swift and beautiful. I was thinking while I was watching this that it was fucking terrifying: to watch someone be deceived by something so beautiful and by someone who dances so beautifully, but is actually not beautiful at all.
Think about that. That may relate to reality.
Did you see the ballet, fellow peers? If so, what’d you think?