Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pay Homage to Swan Lake

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Pay Homage to Swan Lake

Article excerpt

Byline: By Dick Godfrey

An ultra-modern view of the classic ballet one week and a traditional staging the next. Dick Godfrey anticipates some intriguing dates at Newcastle's Theatre Royal.

Nothing is more likely to start alarm bells in the mind of classical ballet lovers than to hear of a new variant of Swan Lake featuring the likes of martial arts, break dancing, video arts and electronic music.

Have yours started? We've seen it ( or something like it ( before haven't we? It seems that every young choreographer or company director for the past 50 years has had a crack at a new version of the greatest full-lengther ever created.

Some have worked. But for every Matthew Bourne, whose take brought a wonderfully fresh dimension to the Lake, there has been aaa..well, perhaps the less said the better.

Birdbrain by the Australian Dance Theatre promises to be very different. For a start, it's not really a version of Swan Lake at all.

Instead, it takes what we are told is a dry, wry and witty look at the iconic status of the work. It certainly attracted enthusiastic reviews when it played in London last year.

This is how its creator, ADT's artistic director Garry Stewart, has described his approach: "I wanted to examine Swan Lake's status in the canon of classical ballet.

"I was fascinated by the fact that this work continues to hold pre-eminence in the artform of dance. Birdbrain is, therefore, a cultural investigation into an historical icon."

Theatre Royal chief executive and dance devotee Peter Sarah worked with ADT in Australia some years ago.

He has seen a tape of Birdbrain and is happily enthusiastic. "It is a wonderful look at Swan Lake featuring things like dancers wearing T-shirts with messages explaining the emotions they are portraying and what they represent."

Swan Lake's status as an icon cannot be denied. Ballet fans are divided between those who put Sleeping Beauty at the top of their list and those who give Swan Lake the supreme accolade.

To me, there is no contest. The superficially childish plot for Swan Lake laid out by the librettists, Messrs Begitchev and Gelster, in Moscow in 1877 lends itself to depths of interpretation and re-interpretation which Beauty can never achieve, splendid though it may be. …

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