Emelie Markgren on Drömmen om Svansjön

To begin with, I have to say that I’m not interested in classical ballet, based on the time we live today. I did not find the piece interesting based on my own perspective. In addition, I had expected to see a contemporary version of the Swan Lake, but so was not the case. Therefore I am going to describe this piece for what it was and what happened. I will also describe the non visual sentiments from the perspective of the classical ballet.

“Drömmen om Svansjön” by Pär Isberg is an interpretation based on the original choreography of Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa to the classical music by Tchaikovsky. The ballet was built on the classic piece but mixed up in a different order. The pieces contained small sequences of new patterns. There were cautious elements of modern glimpses. The romantic story was told clearly during the piece.

The ballet started with a lonely man on stage. A silent melody was played through a little music box. The room was built as a dance studio with huge mirrors. With a cold mood and a moonlight spot from the windows it formed a diagonal across the room. The man contemplating beside a small model building, a miniature of the stage with small white ballet dancers of paper. After the man’s introduction, thirty dancers came in and drew warm and intense movements in the atmosphere.

The ballet started in the intensive rehearsal hall, the dancers were dressed in workout clothes, leg warmers, knee covers, sweatbands and sweaters tied around their waists. The scene was chipper and happy. The choreographer worked at a theater and was commissioned to choreograph the classical “Swan lake”. The theater manager comes in and has an audition with the dancers to cast the roles. The manager and the Theater crew were well dressed in rocks and wigs and carried on Ipads. The choreographer wanted to see one of the female dancers as the double role Odette / Odile. Small conflicts arose when premiere dances did not get the main roles, especially one of the male dancers. The young female dancer got the role as Odette / Odile and the choreographer himself should be acting the prince. It all ended up in a traditional romantic cliché ending.

The movement patterns in the choreography generally consisted of traditional and classical ballet steps by Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa (1895). The movements felt comfortable and flowing. But among all the repetitive chasses, plies, jetees and fouettes, one could sometimes distinguish short pieces of disco dance like short beyoncé moves, high-fives, v-sign moves and short freezes etc. This mix made me look at the ballet a little bit different. When ”four little swans” appeared, I felt the link between today’s shuffle and jumpstyle with this jumping, twisting and rhythmic footwork, which are all moving in the same tactically spirit.

To imagine this without being able to see, I have to describe this by making parallels with other senses. The charm of the ballet itself, was the close and sensitive relationship with the music. Imagine an interplay of dancy proximity and distance. The dynamic dance piece breathed a lively joy. Like the original Swan Lake, synchronized choreographic patterns gave a mild, neutral and watery taste of calmness. Feathery skirts and knocking toe tips flied gently over the floor. What is nice with ballet is that the movements tends to convey the feeling of being able to fly, like in dreams. To be light as a swan, to sail down and land in an enchanted lake. To deeply watch the swan lake’s traditional beauty was like slumbering into a natural romantic dream, almost a bit too much, when it gets all too beautiful you don not want to watch it anymore.

Just like in the original ballet the duets expressed the same romantic story. Imagine these movements like diving, swimming and floating in an ocean of symmetry and strict control. Sleek, squiggly lines and straight tones were mixed on the stage in clear recurring formations. The line ups overlapped each other. But despite the stiff expression a soft and smooth tenderness appeared. To perceive the vision, you have to imagine the sense of it, like the sense of falling asleep on a wooden floor but with a soft down quilt. Like being barefoot letting your feet wade through a cold watercourse on a bottom of cold pebble stones, like you are going to fall at any moment. During one of the scenes they were dancing with white skirts but, holding them in their arms instead of wearing them around their waists, like wings. Smoke swam over the floor and formed a soft fog. The light skirts and the fog reminded me of the sweet smell of water lilies and freshwater. Sometimes it all felt like a constant dizziness. But because of the blankness in its dynamics these intense sequences calmed down like a lightening headache. It is always the same level of refreshing feeling to watch a classical ballet like “Drömmen om Svansjön” if you take it for what it is. The charm of this piece was the historical nostalgic beauty swirling across the stage floor in a sweet composition to the classical music from the orchestra. An impressionistic dream, an interplay about love and iniquity with short glimpses of today’s nightlife. But then again, this was just a classical ballet and I prefer contemporary and exploring expressions.
Emelie Markgren