The story of Swan Lake, the classic tale of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse, has been interpreted in countless ways since Pyotr Tchaikovsky first composed the ballet score in 1875.
Who could forget Natalie Portman’s haunting performance in the 2010 psychological thriller, Black Swan. And now there is a new twist on the ballet.
But, forget dancers pretending to be swans. A French dance company, is putting on a show in Paris involving live swans, sharing the stage with human performers. It is called simply, “Swan“.
“The idea behind ‘Swan’ is to recreate a new world where communication could (be) possible between living creatures,” said Luc Petton, the choreographer. “And specially, birds and dancers are like cousins for me because both of them are dealing with movement, with migration and with international language and they are both very fragile. It is the dancers becoming wild – maybe as wild as the swan.”
The production has been in the works for two years. A zoo offered the dance company some swan eggs and when the swans hatched, the dancers and swans began to bond.
“They adapt to us of course but we also try to adapt to them,” said a dancer. “We have done a lot of imitation process – like spending hours imitating them and just being there and listening and looking at them – and they look at us. We just spend time with them, feeding, sleeping, playing, swimming, some of us – also slept with them.”
Giullome Abrias, the company’s bird keeper explained that the divas on the stage are not necessarily the dancers.
“Swans are moody birds, sometimes a bad mood,” Abrias said. “This morning, for instance one of the swans sucked very strongly the leg of one of the dancers.”
And dancers have to contend with more than just the occasional pecking.
There are also the realities that come with having live creatures on a stage.
“If you are working in this performance you cannot be afraid of rolling on droppings or touching dirty things,” the dancer said. “It’s like life going on on stage.”
Life going on, on stage, and on the road. The dance troupe, including the swans, will be touring soon traveling to Germany and Switzerland.
The dance company says it would love to travel much more extensively, but is limited to countries where the star performers won’t be stopped because of quarantine rules.