If the sight of two men dancing together offends you, then this show is probably not for you. However, if you would consider yourself a more tolerant sort of person, who wouldn’t feel inclined to walk out of the theatre at the suggestion of homosexuality, then I would definitely urge you to go and see this.
Matthew Bourne’s modern take on Tchaikovsky’s traditional ballet famously takes the conventional female corps de ballet and replaces it with the male swans, whose incredible grace and fluidity of movement utterly capture the sense of freedom for which the ballet’s lead character (described only as ‘the Prince’) longs.
Set to Tchaikovsky’s original score, the story shadows that of the more traditional version, following the character of the Prince, at times straying into the suggestion of his nightmares and fantasy. In the park at night, he sees a group of swans; although initially rejected by the Swan, eventually the two dance together with a beauty and a sense of poise that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Back at the palace, the Prince and Queen hold a ball, at which the arrival of the Stranger (danced by the same person as the Swan) increases the ballet’s sexuality and provides the audience with what is arguably another voyage into the mind and fantasy of the Prince as he is overcome by jealousy and desire.
While I don’t pretend to know any more about ballet than the little I learned in a village hall at the age of six, what the show brings to an audience is an intensity of feeling that is unmatched by anything else that I have ever seen; the chorus of male swans are entirely breathtaking, the Prince and the Swan dance together so flawlessly that at times it was almost impossible to comprehend, while the character of the Girlfriend lightens the mood with some superb comedy relief.
Despite not appeasing its audience with the stereotypical image of girls in white tutus, the ballet manages to attain a sense of elegance and beauty, and provoke an upsurge of emotion, that leaves you reeling as the lights come up.
Whether you are already a keen dance-lover, or you have never even thought about seeing a ballet before, this will open your eyes to a whole new way of looking at ballet. If you see nothing else during 2010, get on the internet and get yourself a ticket. It will definitely be worth it.
Showing at Sadler’s Wells until January 24th, and Woking New Victoria from 26th-30th.