On being a swan
New Adventures: Swan Lake Act 2 workshop; 10 May 2021 with Daisy Kemp and Jack Parry
The workshop was one of a series of four – neatly, one for each act of Swan Lake. This one was based on Act 2, the one where the Prince first meets The Swan amid the flock of loyal, protective swans. The traditional balletic view of a swan is effortless, elegant, gravity-defying and female. As we know, Matthew Bourne’s swans are male, at times funny, always powerful, make dramatic use of gravity and ultimately vicious.
All aspects of the workshop were well organised and delivered, Daisy and Jack were caring, jovial and inclusive in their teaching. We began with a warm-up that cleverly integrated ideas and moves for later use, making me feel that every moment counted. There was space for interpretation and improvisation, creating a sense of being invited to own the movements from the very start. Learning short sections of the repertoire was magical, inspiring and proved the transformative power of dance.
The dance of the Cygnets was mentally challenging. But there is something inherently funny about attempting to fit a lot of small steps and changes of direction into music that skips along nippily. Balance, precision and timing are all challenged by trying to dance while giggling!
The swans may look alike but, as with eggs, they are graded into small, medium and large. Each grade has a distinctive role, movement vocabulary and style. Learning some of the moves belonging to the large swans was a remarkable, multi-dimensional experience. The familiarity of the production engages memory; the connection between music and movement generates a profound sense of security and satisfaction. Being taught by a young, experienced swan who had performed the work for over a year and really understood the role brought a richness and depth to every movement that fired the imagination. Creating some of those iconic shapes and movements was absolutely empowering, even in the constraints of our living rooms and kitchens.
There is something deeply affective about the body adopting certain shapes, moves and dynamics – adopting iconic swan shapes brings the feeling of being a swan. Recreating their powerful movements generates a deep feeling of being powerful.
By Di, Donna and Jeanette