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Swan Lake Shocker

by Kevin O’FlynnDavid Burghardt at 19/11/2013 17:40

'Swan Lake Reloaded'

Until Nov. 27 at Dvoretz na Yauze, 1 Ploshchad Zhuravlyova, m. Elektrozavodskaya, www.yauza-palace.ru

After the recent scandals that have hit Russian ballet, if you were told that that the women in the famous "Dance of the Cygnets" scene from "Swan Lake" are junkie prostitutes, you could be forgiven for barely raising an eyebrow. That, you might think, is why they are lying down on the stage, just waving their feet up and down. Too wasted to stand up.

But "Swan Lake Reloaded," which recasts the swans as drug addicts, is an energetic retelling of Tchaikovsky's ballet that throws techno music, street dance and the sins of the modern world into a fast and frenetic 75-minute show that premiered last week at Dvorets na Yauze.

To some, that may sound like it has all the ingredients to ruin an evening, but it has been a hit since it premiered in 2011, and is now on a successful world tour. "Reloaded" takes the essential parts of Tchaikovsky's classic: the prince falls in love with Odette, except that she is not an enchanted swan on a lake, but a prostitute gyrating in a red-light district window.

Even if you have never seen "Swan Lake," you can appreciate the fast-paced dance show, which opens with an impressive set piece that has the villain Von Rothbart as a pimp whose every move is sharp-angled, over-the-top evil. He calls his girls by punching the air in a dance move that channels "Minority Report."

The dancers, who are Swedish, English and Danish, throw in rap and street moves, together with parodies of ballet and plenty of humor. The "Dance of the Cygnets" scene, where the four dancers lie on their backs, drugged, is particularly charming. They then drag themselves up and perform a mix between the famous dance and the Charleston.

Maria Andersson, who plays Odette, described the show as being like Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," with lots of color and energy (and drugs and prostitution, she forgets to mention).

"One woman has a lamp on her head, and the mother has a pillow on her head."

Playing the jester, Fredrik Wentzel adds a circus element to the evening and spins repeatedly on his head, a take-off of the famous 32 fouettés that Odile performs in the ballet.

The techno music can grate at times as it sends your innards wobbling, but scenes move quickly and a snatch of Tchaikovsky is never far away.

"I'm just here to tell the story in a different light, with a modern context," said show creator Fredrik Rydman, formerly of street dance group Bounce.

The idea for the show came when he was walking in London and saw some white furs in a window. "I got the idea that maybe the swans are prostitutes from the silhouette, with the white fur and the boots," he said. "I started to do the story and it made sense to me. It's important to tell the story in a clear way, because when I went to the ballet to see ‘Swan Lake' it was very hard for me to understand why people are doing things to each other, because dancing is a hard language to talk."

The Russian public, brought up on "Swan Lake," know well the story of Prince Siegfried, who falls in love with Odette. She has been turned into a swan by the evil Von Rothbart, and can only be restored by true love.

Some critics have not been amused by the new version. Kommersant was particularly scathing, slamming the choreography as lacking compared to other modern interpretations of the ballet.

"I don't know about in Russia, but in Sweden people have a vision of ‘Swan Lake': ‘Let's go and see some swans,'" Rydman said. "They don't know the story, and it's really a tragedy."

At the end of "Swan Lake," Odile and Von Rothbart drown , and Odette and Siegfried jump into the lake and ascend to heaven. The end of "Reloaded" is louder, more violent and has far more feathers.

Read other articles of the print issue "The Moscow News #45"
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