When it premiered at Sadler’s Wells in 1995, Matthew Bourne’s triumphant reinterpretation of Swan Lake turned tradition upside down, taking the dance world by storm. Now, Australian cinema audiences can watch this modern day classic for the first time in stunning digital 3D, accompanied by state of the art surround sound. A new version of this iconic production, perhaps best-known for replacing the traditional female corps de ballet with a menacing male ensemble, was filmed in 3D at Sadler’s Wells, London in 2011.
The stellar cast includes the magnificent Richard Winsor as the lead Swan/Stranger, Dominic North as The Prince and Nina Goldman as The Queen. Breathtaking in its drama and intensity, filming in 3D creates an illusion of space around the dancers, drawing you onto the stage and bringing a dramatic realism to the story. With more than 30 international theatre awards including three Tonys and an Olivier, Swan Lake has been acclaimed as a landmark achievement on the stage, becoming the longest running ballet in the West End and on Broadway.
Presentato in anteprima europea come evento al Torino GLBT Film Festival 2012, che sposa così il cinema con la danza attraverso uno dei più importanti coreografi della scena internazionale, e sicuramente il più vicino al mondo GLBT. Bourne è infatti noto per la sua rivisitazione in tema completamente maschile di balletti famosi come “Il lago dei cigni” o “Lo Schiaccianoci” (il balletto classico per eccellenza nel mondo anglosassone) che ha ripensato per una compagnia esclusivamente maschile, con uno spirito creativo ma rispettoso delle tradizioni, senza alcuna velleità grottesca o ironica. Il suo contatto con il cinema inizia con il film “Billy Elliott”, la cui sequenza di danza finale era tratta appunto dal suo “The Swan Lake”.
What could be better for Matthew Bourne’s contemporary re-interpretation of Swan Lake than for it to be showcased in the cutting-edge technology of 3D? After all, Bourne’s dance company is called New Adventures, so it is apt that the choreographer is pushing the boundaries of how his pieces are being seen as well as how they are being performed.
It’s also a coup for Sky Arts to have Bourne’s innovative production with which to flaunt their new 3D capabilities. With 3D television still in its infancy, Sky should be applauded for adding ballet to their 3D roster as it gives dance a rare chance to reach a new TV audience.
Since it premiered in 1995, Bourne’s sexy, witty and poignant interpretation (loosely based on the Russian classic but replacing the traditional female corps de ballet with a menacing male ensemble) is the longest-running ballet in the West End and on Broadway, and has collected over 30 international theatre awards. Surprisingly, it has only been recorded for DVD once – in 1996 with Adam Cooper as the Swan. Bourne admits that he’s been trying to get it filmed again “somehow, anyhow” for years.
The version filmed by Sky finished its run at Sadler’s Wells in January. The cast and crew were reassembled four months later to film in 3D, directed by Ross MacGibbon. The story is seen through the eyes of a Prince, who escapes from his loveless relationship with his mother into his dreams, where swans symbolise freedom.
The resulting performance, when viewed in 3D, is both slick and stunning. The impact of the vibrant staging remains undiminished; if anything it’s more powerful – the illusion of space created around the dancers allows the audience deeper into the action; the movement and speed of the dancers, filmed from high above to uncomfortably low down, brings tension and immediacy; and the use of extreme close-up shots draws the viewer into Bourne’s narrative dance, enhancing the reality of the characters and the engagement with his dramatic storytelling.
In fact, it’s filmed at such close quarters that the viewer can hear the dancers’ breathing and see every bead of sweat dripping down their muscular forms. The magnificent Richard Winsor, who plays the lead Swan/Stranger, is at times right up in the viewer’s face, his sinister movements and the fluent choreography intensified by perception of depth created by 3D.
However, there are not as many “pop out” moments as you might expect – that feeling of the dancers almost bursting into the room with you. The opening scenes use the effect suitably, making the dancing swans feel as if they’re coming directly towards you, but I think I would have liked to have seen more of this technique.
One of the most striking and powerful scenes is the swans’ attack on the Prince. Because the scene is filmed from above, the viewer is privy to formations and patterns that they wouldn’t normally see from a theatre seat. As the aggressive group of swans (complete with bare chests, feathered knee-length trousers and black facial markings) circles the Prince, the viewer can feel the savagery of the attack.
The over-sized set dwarfs the Prince (played by Dominic North) and creates vast shadows that seem even more imposing in 3D, nowhere more so than in the scene where the mad Prince is confronted by the giant shadow of his mother, followed by a menacing line of psychiatric nurses in grotesque masks.
At the preview screening of the 3D version, Bourne declared himself pleased with the result and revealed his appetite for doing more. He dropped hints that his recent revival of Cinderella, commissioned to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Blitz, might also receive the 3D treatment. I’ll certainly be tuning in if it does. (Rachel Ward, The Telegraph)