12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Swan Lake [DVD]  (DVD)
I watched a live performance of this Swan Lake last month and left the theater with mixed emotions. I was exhilarated by the whole concept, but somewhat disappointed with the choreography itself. I thought perhaps it was the fault of the dancers, so I bought the dvd with the original performers. Well, my opinion is still unchanged. This is a great show, but not a great ballet work.
Matthew Bourne re-interprets the classic "swan lake" story in a very subtle and imaginative way. His probbing into the soul of a hurt, dominated, rejected and (possibly) homosexual young man is brilliant. He utilizes themes that already exist in the story (the prince's reluctancy to marry, his mother's demand that he complies with customary behaviour,) but shifts the focus, to create something entirely new and modern. What's more, Bourne even maintains most of the structure of the classic choreographhy. The Act 2 Adagio is still a pas-de-deux for the prince and his Swan, the four little swans get to do their piece, etc. Yet, his choreography is neither traditional, nor modern. It's something in-between, -a timid mixture of classic ballet and contemprary-dance, often resembling some Broadway-musical type of work.
But then, this whole thing was conceived as a West End performance. Since it has by now achieved a somewhat "legendary" status, we are perhaps inclined to judge it by standards that may have little to do with Bourne's original intentions.
This may indeed explain the way the performance was filmed, -which has proven disappointing to some other (re)viewers. True, there is a tendency for close-ups, which in a (classic) ballet performance are ususally distracting, as the viewer can not actually follow the choreography. I have a feeling, though, that the choreography is second to the drama in this case, therefore the cinematographers' choice may have been appropriate. We get more detail here. Several thing that we guessed, or "suspected" in the theater, become clear when watching the dvd.
There are, of course, some shortcomings as well. In the Bar scene, we do not get the ensemble effect of the '60s "shake" dance (I was amazed at how brilliantly this matched, and contrasted at the same time, Tchaikovsky's music in the theater.) In Act 2 the movement of the swans seems a bit muddled, but that is the overall feeling I got from the theatrical performance as well. Their appearance in the last scene was definitely more effective in the theater, but I'm not sure if that has to do with the filming, or with the nature of the medium itself. I'm afraid there's really no way to capture the thrill of a "live" performance on film.
All in all, I'd say that the filming is quite good, though I may not agree totally with some of the film-makers' choices.
Finally, the dancers. The "ensemble" (should we call them "corps-de-ballet"?) are quite capable of coping with the choreographer's demands, -each one on his own! They just do not bother to synchronize with each other. However, they are all very expressive, which in this case is as important as their dancing skills.
Emily Piercy is the Prince's girlfriend. She's cute and funny and does make an impression, but with this coreography I just cann't be sure of how accomplished a dancer she actually is.
Fiona Chadwick as the Queen is ravishing. She's cruel and distant and sexy, all at the same time. Whow!!!
Scott Ambler is the Prince. He creates a likeable character and his dancing is excellent, but he does not shine as much as his Swan does. Well, how many Princes do you know, who can out-shine their feathered partners?
Which brings us to Adam Cooper. He alone would be enough reaason for anyone to watch this dvd! He is a wonderful dancer and actor. His white Swan is threatening in the beginning, but as the pas-de-deux progresses he becomes more tender by the minute (without ever becoming effeminate or ridiculous.) His Black Swan (here, called the Stranger) is so sexy and sinister, that a friend who was watching the dvd with me exclaimed: "Oh God, I hope I never fall in love with somebody like this! I'd know I'd be in trouble, but I just would not be able to resist him!" I believe that says it all!