The timeless Swan Lake is today prized as one of the world’s greatest and most renowned classical ballets to ever exist. For over one hundred years Swan Lake has been performed, adapted and rewritten innumerable times to enthrall a wide range of audiences all across the world. Whilst the foundation of how Swan Lake began and came to be is still, to some extent, unknown, it is widely believed that the production was originally choreographed by Julius Resigned with the accompaniment of celebrated Russian composer Russian Tchaikovsky for the musical score.
It was first resented as The Lake of the Swans by the Ballet of the Moscow Imperial Abolish Theatre in 1877 in Moscow, Russia. Brash Judgment and calamitous reviews were passed upon this production and in turn, most ballet companies today now establish their staging both choreographically and musically on the revival created by Marcus Petite and Level Vivian, which opened in 1895. Seen through the eyes of millions, countless variations of Swan Lake have been created since its original formation in 1877.
One of the most recognized recreations is the Swan Lake modernized by the hieroglyphic genius Grange Murphy and presented by the illustrious Australian Ballet Company in 2002. A spiraling love triangle between the changeable Prince Siegfried, a delicate Dotted and an alluring Baroness von Rotate, Grange Murphy’s adaptation of Swan Lake is one to rival most others around the world. Although rewritten countless times, the original plot of Swan Lake follows the tale of the young Princess Dotted, who, under the spell of an evil sorcerer interchanges between a swan and a beautiful young woman.
Prince Siegfried, a young man of 21 and soon to e married, stumbles across a lake of beautiful swans whilst on a hunting trip. He discovers through the Swan Queen, Dotted that the evil sorcerer had cast an enchantment on many beautiful girls to turn them into swans, and the tears of their grieving parents had formed the lake. Soon after, Prince Siegfried falls madly in love with Dotted. She reveals to him that the only way the spell could be broken is if a man, pure in heart, pledges his everlasting love to her.
This angers the evil enchantress Baroness Von Rotate, and she manipulates Prince Siegfried into infesting his love to Doodle, a girl posing as Dotted and so happens to be Von Rotator’s daughter. Dismayed and with a broken heart, Dotted throws herself into the lake, followed by Prince Siegfried who was horrified by his mistake. Together their spirits ascend into the heavens above Swan Lake. Grange Murphy’s adaptation breathes new life into the classic Swan Lake by taking a realistic and modernized approach, twisting it in with sensual fantasy and warped spectacle.
These themes, combined with others such as betrayal, instability, depression and confusion deviate room the fantasy world seen in the original production and take precedence over the linear narrative of Swan Lake to construct a realistic representation that is relatable to audiences all across the world. Murphy’s variation of Swan Lake revisits the story of Dotted; the young and naive lover of Prince Siegfried who she is to be married to. After a series of events, Dotted is driven insane by his overpowering infatuation with Baroness Von Rotate.
She is then committed to a sanatorium where her emotional damage is irreversible. This is perceived through a range of striking, fragmented events that are seemingly impulsive and uncontrollable. A number of visions are seen through the eyes of the mentally unbalanced Dotted, including a heart shattering pas De deuce between herself and Prince Siegfried, where she appears as a feeble, broken swan and tries to escape his grasp. This is soon followed by an encounter with Baroness Von Rotate, who walks past the window of her enclosed room, arm in arm with the Prince.
After much deceit and changeability, the Prince realizes his heart truly belongs to Dotted and tries to find her once more, but it is all n vain as Dotted has committed suicide, descending gracefully into the lake, clothed in a long dress. This modern variation, through exploiting the themes of love, loss and desperation maintains an emotional connection to the audience while still fabricating a strong production to be an escape for the audience to enjoy.
Grange Murphy made further alterations to the traditional Swan Lake to push the boundaries of contemporary ballet, a style of dance that has recently arisen in the 20th century, incorporating both modern dance and classical ballet. This was flawlessly achieved y Murphy through his involvement in the Sydney Dance Company. The movements used are fundamental to the storyline of Swan Lake as Murphy has staged it to be predominantly driven by romance. He utilizes elements of daring floor work, suspenseful lifts and fluid motions to create a ministering and expressive work of art.
In appreciation of classical ballet, many graceful leaps and lifts are used, indicative of the traditional swan’s fragility. In contrast to this, the scene where Dotted becomes is driven insane wing for the attention Prince Siegfried wild, harassing movements are used, strongly channeling contemporary dance. This is again seen in the imagined fantasy duet between Dotted and Prince Siegfried, when she is locked in the sanatorium. This duet includes variations of movements associated with classical ballet by upside-down grand rondo De Jamb, parallel retires pirouettes and large, sweeping movements.
In recognition to the original Swan Lake, Murphy’s adaptation still follows the vital elements of the production, including the corps De ballet of graceful swans and a number of unchanged repertoire pieces. The tagging of Grange Murphy’s Swan Lake is an astounding construction of visual and aural components to be the driving force behind his modern interpretation. He gives his story a fresh edge by using the original Tchaikovsky score, as recorded by Richard Bonged, rather than the well-known Richard Dried arrangement that most ballet companies use today when performing Swan Lake.
This was a subliminal device used to link the contemporary production back to its foundations. The sets used in Murphy’s production are unrivalled. The lake is always present, either in full view or just beyond a foreground interior. In Part 1, it is a fragile, natural spectacle, in Part 2 it is a pool of brooding tranquility and in Part 3 it finishes as a black receptacle of ultimate heartbreak and tragedy. The sanatorium is a minimalist environment- cold, intimidating and antidemocratic.
The space used for this scene is small and enclosed limiting movement and in turn, making them more effective. The impeccable costuming influenced by Edwardian times creates a contrast between the traditional Swan lake that focuses it’s costuming around the middle ages and drives the narrative forward with repeated motifs. Deist’s enormous flowing white wedding dress is one of the most memorable costume devices used, with it hinting at a division between Prince Siegfried and Dotted.
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