Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is back at Milton Keynes Theatre as a revived production that brings astonishing new energy and emotion to a legendary piece of dance theatre.

I delight in Matthew Bourne’s work because he interprets his chosen narratives with intelligence and affection. He scrutinises characters’ motives, questions the situations they find themselves in, and reimagines their stories through drama-led dance in ways that all theatregoers can relate to.

Bourne provoked an immediate reaction from stunned audiences – particularly classical ballet aficionados – with the premiere of his Swan Lake in 1995. Vexed traditionalists and dubious dance fans mourned the absence of female swans in tutus and pointe shoes. Yet, many found themselves simultaneously marvelling at the glistening naked torsos of the menacing male ensemble and moved by earthy, emotive choreography set to Tchaikovsky’s timeless score. Audiences were challenged to reconsider their beliefs about dance, and many young men were inspired to consider dance as a profession.

Twenty-four years later and the current revival, performed by Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures company, is winning standing ovations wowing the next generation of audiences and dancers.

 

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake. New Adventures production poster image.

 

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Choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, danced by his New Adventures company, returns to Milton Keynes Theatre this month and the revival will have audiences flocking to the venue.

First performed in 1995, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is an unconventional take on the beloved nineteenth century classical ballet. Although still set to Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score, this interpretation replaces the customary corps of swan maidens with a posse of feral, bare-chested male birds and adds a homoerotic twist to the traditional tale of love, freedom and identity.

These bold choices ruffled plenty of feathers when audiences first encountered the production.

 

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake

 

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Georgina Butler. Journalist. Dance Writer. Dance Teacher. Ballet. Tutu. Splits.

 

Sometimes, you just need to put on your tutu and twirl.

But what do you really know about the Ballet Tutu?

 

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Northern Ballet’s Swan Lake is overflowing with dance content and features a love triangle that makes the most of the Company’s premier dancers.

There is no definitive version of the iconic classical ballet so choreographers the world over endeavour to continue the history of this masterpiece in their own unique way. Set during the last days of the Belle Époque, Northern Ballet’s Swan Lake provides a no-nonsense rationale for the main character’s connection to water and, thanks to its focus on three close friends experiencing intense and passionate emotions for each other, plenty of opportunities for dramatic partnering.

An atmospheric Prologue functions as an absorbing mini drama, recounting the lakeside loss that drives David Nixon’s inventive narrative.

 

Northern Ballet’s Swan Lake. Northern Ballet dancers Kenneth Tindall and Keiko Amemori in Swan Lake. Photo by Bill Cooper.

 

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Swan Lake is the epitome of a bucket-list ballet and the English National Ballet production currently in residence at Milton Keynes Theatre is simply stunning.

I must confess to a great affinity for the perennially popular Swan Lake having learned a lot of the repertoire in workshops as a youngster; performed many of the roles in school shows and compulsively viewed countless versions in theatres, on television and online. The swell of the overture is enough to transfix me – listening to Tchaikovsky’s haunting score soothed this scholar during many years of revision throughout school and university. Together, the combination of story, music, choreography and staging makes the ballet a truly touching masterpiece.

Of course, possessing such zeal and knowledge means that with each cumulative performance of Swan Lake I am privileged enough to see, the potential to be disappointed grows. Fortunately, English National Ballet’s touring production had me enraptured on opening night. In fact, I swanned out of the auditorium appropriately moved by such an emotional evening and in awe of the incredible talent within the Company.

 

English National Ballet's Swan Lake. The Swans corps de ballet. (Photography by ASH).

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