World première: 19 April 2016
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Scotland
Scottish Ballet commissioned David Dawson to create a new Swan Lake for a new generation. One that sees balletic forms taken to their astonishing extremes, with pointe-work balances poised on a tilt that challenges gravity to unstitch the relationship between ballerina and partner. Kinetic sculpture on one level, but also – on a more profound level – an expression of emotions and trust. Dawson’s instinct for movement somehow draws you into knowing what the emotional subtext is within the imagery, the effort, the flesh-and-blood physicality.
Swan Lake becomes Siegfried’s story. A coming-of-age journey where a young man – an innocent who doesn’t really fit into the ‘real’ world – learns about love because of the choices he makes, and because some of those choices turn out to be mistakes he regrets but can’t change.
Siegfried is alone, portent and pensive. He longs to find his place within the real world, but is disturbed by his feelings of being the outsider. Friends begin to gather ahead of a celebration for Siegfried’s closest friend, Benno. As the party builds and Benno enjoys the attention of his companions, he tries to encourage Siegfried to put aside his insecurities and join the fun, but Siegfried remains removed and consumed by his own thoughts. As the party begins to disperse, Benno and the others decide to continue elsewhere. Siegfried remains behind alone in contemplation, before choosing to go in search of his own solitude.
It is night – and under the cover of darkness Siegfried sees a beautiful woman by the lake. Goddess-like and barely human, she is the Swan Queen, Odette, replenishing her powers from the waters of the lake. She morphs between forms both human and swan. Siegfried approaches and Odette is startled, yet unafraid. He is captivated by her grace, her vitality and her power. She is increasingly enchanted by his tenderness and curious about this human soul. As their feelings develop Siegfried finds himself surrounded by a multitude of swans, radiating the spirit of Odette. The night draws to an end and Odette tells Siegfried she must depart. To ensure they will meet again, she entrusts to him a very precious stone. This keepsake signifies their absolute trust and devotion and will always allow them to find each other.
A formal party is being held by Benno for Siegfried. Benno has arranged for the very best guests to attend including three potential love-matches for Siegfried. As the party progresses, Siegfried politely dances with each of Benno’s guests. However, Siegfried is excited to tell Benno that he has already found his soulmate and fallen deeply in love. He shows Benno the precious stone and explains his promise to Odette.
Suddenly, an uninvited group arrive led by a beautiful woman, Odile, who embodies a sensual charisma and fascinates everyone with her seductive intensity. Siegfried is certain she is his Odette and tells Benno that this is the woman that he has fallen in love with. Siegfried dances through the night with Odile. As the evening reaches its climax he declares his true love and foolishly offers her the precious stone. At this moment of ultimate adoration Odile seizes the stone and triumphantly abandons the party. Siegfried is left stunned and humiliated. Realising that he has betrayed the trust of Odette he runs desperately back to the lake.
Siegfried arrives at the lake broken and exhausted. He encounters the swans serenely moving by the water. He begins to search for Odette and eventually she appears to him. She senses his distress but is yet unaware of his betrayal. Siegfried is tormented and tells Odette of his error. As he pleads for Odette’s forgiveness she reveals that just as the trust has gone, so must she. That she can no longer be part of his life and he will lose her forever. Odette embraces him for the last time before she and the swans disappear into the darkness. Siegfried is left once again to face himself and his future alone.