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Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake (Matthew Bourne)

4.1 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Matthew Bourne, director and choreographer of Adventures in Motion Pictures--a maverick new modern dance company based in London--brings a new twist to an old classic with this production of "Swan Lake." Taking advantage of the public's preoccupation with the ups and downs of the royal family, Bourne has set his story in the modern era and has cast all the swans--including the Odette/Odile role--as males. Boutne's creation brings great ballet to an audience it has never before reached, and for cognoscenti offers a new view of the breadth of possibilty in Tchaikovsky's well-loved score. "Swan Lake" enjoyed a sold-out run in London and a subsequent critically acclaimed and public-adored Broadway stint.

Swan Lake became an unexpected popular hit when radical choreographer Matthew Bourne took Tchaikovsky's traditional ballet by the scruff of the neck and reworked it with a myriad of modern influences and themes to astonishing effect. Seldom have the dark psychological riptides at the heart of so many classical ballets been so brilliantly exposed. The Prince (Scott Ambler) is a wretched and dissolute young man dominated by his mother, the Joan Collins-like Queen (Fiona Ambler). Shades of Tennessee Williams, indeed. Von Rothbart becomes a press secretary, more sinister eminence grise than hissable villain. Most startling of all, the Swan (Adam Cooper) is a muscular, emphatically masculine male.

Bourne has stressed the universality of his interpretation, which proved such a success for his Adventures in Motion Pictures dance company. And indeed this is never an overtly "gay" Swan Lake, although the electricity of the pas de deux at the height of Act 2 delivers a palpably homoerotic charge. Its universal threads--as Bourne suggests, the need to be held and understood is common to us all--are synthesized in the utterly moving conclusion as the Swan cradles the lifeless Prince and raises him to a better place. Swan Lake becomes a human, rather than simply romantic, tragedy. --Piers Ford

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Adam Cooper, Scott Ambler, Fiona Chadwick, Barry Atkinson, Emily Piercy
  • Directors: Peter Mumford
  • Producers: Bob Lockyear, Fiona Morris, James Wills, John Kelleher, Katharine Doré
  • Format: Classical, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Nvc Arts
  • DVD Release Date: May 23, 2000
  • Run Time: 113 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004CWO8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #149,605 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake (Matthew Bourne)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Finally, Matthew Bourne's innovative production of Tchaikovsky's SWAN LAKE is available on DVD. This is not a camp send-up of the balletic war horse, but a modern, freshly imagined telling of a tale of enchantment, betrayal, disenchantment, and release. What most people already know about this production is that the swans and cygnets are performed by male dancers, that the choreography emphasizes the aggressive rather than the graceful movements in swans' repertoire, and that the story is heavily freighted with Freudian implications as it shows a young prince's efforts to break free of his mother's hold (she's part Merry Widow and part Cruella deVil). The viewer who tries to analyze plot points too carefully is heading toward frustration and confusion. (For those who just can't let it alone, there's a helpful on-screen synopsis you can jump to whenever you need it.) The best way to enjoy this production is by focusing on the choreography and the dancing itself. Adam Cooper's nameless Swan is powerful, persistent, and unapologetic. He could be the prince's alter ego, his embodied desires, the id, or just about anything else you'd want to ascribe to him. He woos son and mother with equal conviction. Besides the moments when Cooper is on stage/screen, the choreographic hightlight of this production for me was the dance of the cygnets (pas de quatre). This is a moment of levity in every production of SWAN LAKE, but more so here where the mischievous antics and curiosity of the cygnets are played for all they're worth.
The other thing worth commenting on is the quality of the filming of this live performance.
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Format: DVD
Hold on to your lids, kids, a traditional Swan Lake this is not. Matthew Bourne, probably Britain's greatest younger choreographer, has reset the old and great ballet into a tale of British royal satire, repressed sexuality and just plain human longing for comfort and protection. And if you've heard about this version, it is definitely not all male; there are plenty of female dancers around. The Swan Queen, however, is now The Swan King. The corps de ballet who form The Swan King's court, traditionally delicate swan maidens in white tutus, are now bare-chested, muscular male swans with mean, dark-shadowed eyes, twitching heads and hair combed to a dark point down their foreheads. They wear something like feathered leggings from waist to knee.

The traditional Swan Lake story has the young prince encountering an enchanted princess, human by night, a swan by day, who can only have the spell broken by true love. The prince swears his devotion, but is tricked by the sorcerer into thinking another is The Swan Queen. He realizes his mistake, but it's too late. He rushes to the lake, finds The Swan Queen and joins her in death but reunited in love.

In Bourne's version it is Britain in the Fifties. We meet the young prince as a fearful child, dominated by his unfeeling mother, the Queen, and manipulated by the Queen's evil press secretary. The lonely boy finds comfort only by imagining a brave swan who will protect him and look over him. Ten years later the prince still is dominated by his mother, who has scarcely aged. He thinks he loves a young woman who is considered unsuitable by the Queen. She announces she will hold a ball and introduce him to proper candidates. Eventually in a drunken, repressed rage, he finds himself on the shores of a park lake.
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Format: DVD
I was amazed when I saw this preformance in NYC and I'm so glad it has been preserved on DVD. I'm equally impressed that the way in which it was filmed really makes you feel like you're still in the audience watching it and not just watching a music video. Close ups and camera movements are used but I never felt like I was missing something happening off camera. Also, audience applause, coughs and laughter can be heard throughout. That's right, you read that correctly, laughter in a ballet. There are many instances where comedy has been inserted into the piece and I couldn't be more delighted. It's handeled effrotlessly by the cast and story and adds to the human connection I feel for the production. It never feels forced. And comedy is not the last ime you might be caught off guard durring this ballet. There are political overtones, fantastic sets, an outrageous bar scene, and of course, the male swans.
By changing the swans to males, Mathew Bourne has infused this tale with overtones never imagined. The swans here are very athletic and much more bird-like in their movements. It's a daring move and one that adds many new overtones and a raw energy to the story. It's the single most daring element in a production that's all about taking risks and trying new things.
The DVD comes with a small bookett that includes, credits, a synopsis, an interview with and biography of Mathew Bourne. I can't imagine someone who likes dance not being completely swept away by this incredible production. Watch it once and you'll want to see it over and over again even though it's magic will stay with you forever.
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