Tchaikovsky, Swan Lake and the Supernatural

by andymarshall on February 12, 2007

I’ve often heard people say that ballet is overrated: dance set to substandard music packed with rather gushy, romantic lightweight boy-meets-girl themes. I would agree that ballet is all about sex (albeit of a highly cultivated nature) but I don’t see anything intrinsically wrong with that. There is also something ethereal about an art form that has no words to it. All the expression is in music and movement.

Because of this, I would argue that it is ballet which can most graphically transcend the boundaries between reality and supernatural, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the story of Swan Lake.

The plot borrows imagery from all kinds of classical sources (white swan, good, black swan, bad; death is the only way to achieve perfection etc) and there is always doubt about what is real and what is part of the subconscious together with the sense that any resolution to the emotional pain of our human condition is always just beyond our grasp however close we get to it.

I’ll come clean here: I love going to the ballet. I went to see Swan Lake this week and it would have fitted perfectly into our supernatural theme, our current theme and our lost love theme. But I’m not making a claim that this is a great work of art just because it’s easy to pigeon-hole. It’s great because the music is beautiful, because Tchaikovsky wrote the music with choreography in mind (unlike many other ballet scores which have been shoe-horned to fit) and because the story itself explores themes and depths of emotion that we find hard to express in other art forms.

Kevin mentioned that we should take a look at Eugene Onegin (and I will certainly do that) for this meeting. I’d also like to suggest if we have time that we take a look at Swan Lake.

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