Entertainment, you will agree, is a delightful thing. However, there are times when we want to be enthralled, to be lifted in the transcendence. We need that rush. We need to be swept up and away in the story and spectacle.
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Swan Lake does exactly that. The grandest of the grand ballets, it enfolds within its elegant framework so much of the potential in all of us -- soaring individual aspiration, incredibly tight teamwork, music at times so titanic and yet so feeling -– and a story that serves as a torchlight on our mythic, animal past, with human duality embodied in the axial Odette/Odile figure. There is good and evil, light and darkness, and the promise of love's redemption. You can set your own dances of the imagination along those magical lines yet find your own compass in the truths of the heart.
One of the many astounding achievements of Swan Lake is how so much dramatic freight is conveyed with such lightness of touch, as natural as a sigh. Another is how such a demanding ballet -- its punishment measured in the piles of defeated shoes left at the end of every performance -- never betrays its labour on stage. The gracefulness of Swan Lake would not happen without the sweat, strength, and sacrifice of our Company artists…
Swan Lake persists. Over 145 years after the first rather tortured performance in Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre, it has become the world’s most popular, resilient, and beloved ballets. Of course, it is the great classical ballet, and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet respects that. However, why does it thrive? There is Tchaikovsky's music, certainly -- the "choreographic symphony," as critics enthuse. Although there is some evidence that Tchaikovsky approached his first full-length ballet from a combination of penury and curiosity, the music more than holds its own with his great works, and stands tall among his later ballets, The Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker.
The idea of lovely young women transformed into lovely swans is another draw. Audiences appear to savour the metaphor for grace and beauty -– to adore beauty for its own sake, as an enchanting image to embrace and hold close.
Here's hoping that we have Swan Lake to enjoy for generations to come. At the same time, let it be our inspiration. The world has never suffered for too much beauty!