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Matthew Bourne’s 'New Adventures' Presents "Swan Lake" at City Center
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Matthew Bourne’s 'New Adventures' Presents "Swan Lake" at City Center

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Matthew Bourne’s
Swan Lake

Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Directed and Choreographed by
Matthew Bourne
Matthew Bourne’s
(‘New Adventures’ Website)

Set and Costume Design: Lez Brotherston
Lighting Design: Rick Fisher
Assoc. Directors: Scott Ambler & Etta Murfitt
Resident Tour Director: Steve Kirkham
Rehearsal Director: Pia Driver

Principals: Scott Ambler, Ashley Bain, Madelaine Brennan,
Nina Goldman, Steve Kirkham, Dominic North, Jonathan Ollivier, Shelby Williams, Simon Williams, Richard Winsor

In Performances at City Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 15, 2010

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, last seen in New York on Broadway, twelve years ago, when it won three Tony Awards, was one of those surprises that caught me off guard. I’m a ballet purist when it comes to the major classical story ballets, and I like my 32 fouettés fast and fierce (“Black Swan Pas de Deux, Act III Ballroom”). However, this mostly all-male dance company, on the intimate City Center stage, with all the swans male, bare-chested with thickly feathered breeches, leaping like fighter planes, was wildly athletic, no pointe shoes here. Mr. Bourne’s choreography and Lez Brotherston’s costumes and scenery are all outsized, lavish, and enchanting. The Swan Lake story as we know it was stretched and ornamented to match the size, sassiness, and sexiness of this hugely entertaining production.

The Prince’s Palace Garden is switched to the Prince’s bedroom, with the shy, diminutive Dominic North having some oedipal problems with the overpowering Queen, Nina Goldman. The Prince takes lessons in ballroom, bowing, and protocol, in a campy ensemble number with costumes swank and suave. When he goes to the lake, seeking to end it all, posting a note on a lamppost, the swans appear, and Richard Winsor, in the male version of the white swan, Odette, seduces this Prince, who’s told to marry soon, and both Prince and Swan swirl, swoon, and spin by the very eerie lake. Yet, being Swan Lake, there’s another side to Odette, and that’s Odile, the black swan, here called The Stranger.

In the Ballroom scene, The Stranger arrives in black leather pants and riding crop, whipping his women with wanton wile. None other than the Queen is seduced, and of course this is still Mr. Winsor, in a quintessentially erotic dance performance. The Prince has a nervous breakdown, and, while in treatment, sees a multitude of the white male swans, including his seducer, scratch through his mattress and crawl out from his pillows. At times the Swan (Mr. Winsor) carries the Prince about like a newlywed. At times Mr. North huddles into the fetal position like an embryo. There’s much psychology in this choreography amongst the feathered breeches. There’s also much humor, but, again, this is not Trockadero or Grandiva. The humor is nuanced and Broadway-esque. In fact the following scenes brought passages of pure hilarity: The Royal training scene, Act I, the Opera House scene, also Act I (with the fabulously talented Madelaine Brennan as the Prince’s bawdy girlfriend), the whipped up partner dancing at the Royal Ball, Act III, and the Swans in bed, Act IV.

I literally can’t wait to see another Matthew Bourne ballet, better sooner than later. Mr. Brotherston’s stunning, classy sets and costumes can only be imagined in the Company’s other story productions. Rick Fisher’s lighting was always warm and dynamic or muted and brooding. Matthew Bourne is a genius, as Director, Choreographer, and Artistic Director, to have gathered such talent and maximized their performance and presence. Kudos to Matthew Bourne and his ‘New Adventures’ Company and projects.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at