The Story of Swan Lake

Swan Lake, 2018. Photo courtesy Royal Ballet

Ask anyone in the street to name a ballet and they are most likely to say Swan Lake. But the story of Swan Lake starts in Moscow in 1877, with failure: at its première it was such a resounding flop that its composer, Tchaikovsky, was plunged into depression. Sadly he never lived to see Swan Lake’s full realisation – with the familiar choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov – in St Petersburg in 1895. Their version forms the basis for most productions we see the world over today.

There is a fascinating story to be told by tracing Swan Lake’s development from an unpromising start to eventual triumph and onwards to it becoming part of the standard repertoire of the world’s major ballet companies. The two ‘white’ acts choreographed by Lev Ivanov influenced the young Mikhail Fokine and helped form his views on chorography. Swan Lake’s iconic status means that new choreographers continually look at how to update and reinterpret the story, most notably Matthew Bourne’s 1995 reworking of Swan Lake with his all-male version bringing a new audience to ballet.

Presentation: this presentation is illustrated by PowerPoint slides, along with archive film clips and DVDs shown to illustrate the topic.

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