“Manly” swans with six-pack abs are coming. “Swan Lake” featuring shirtless dancers with sharply defined muscles will be showcased in South Korea for the first time in nine years. “The show itself has been around for 24 years but this particular version has new guests and interpretation with hundreds of details renewed to add a fresh spin,” said Matthew Bourne, the choreographer of the show, in an e-mail interview before the performance in South Korea on Wednesday.
Bourne’s version of “Swan Lake” is achieving a neoclassical status in the dance field. It delivers a tragic drama between a weak prince and swans – mythical figures with strength, beauty, and freedom that the prince does not have. The background of the piece is moved to the modern royal family in the U.K. Bourne’s version became popular for including a scene in Billy Elliot, in which the main character takes flight.
The biggest change the British choreographer introduced to the new version is “male swans.” “Male swans were so symbolic as to completely remove the old image of traditional ‘Swan Lake,’” explained Bourne. However, he was faced with the harsh reality in 1995 when his shirtless male dancers ran around on a stage. The show was ridiculed for being “swans for gays,” rather than receiving positive feedback for breaking the conventional norm. There were many audience members who left in the middle of the show when a male swan and the prince dance together. However, this was not enough to deter him from his conviction that there are already too many similar “Swan Lake.”
Bourne also had to break the preconception that “Swan Lake” is a ballet performance. “I used any means of expression to deliver the story, such as musical, movie, and tap dance,” said the choreographer. He meticulously analyzed videos of swans. “Live swans swimming in a lake were not as graceful as I thought so it was hard to interpret their movements in a visually beautiful manner,” Bourne laughed. This is why his show should be categorized as “dance musical,” rather than simply dance performance.
The show will be performed from October 9 to 20 at the LG Arts Center in Gangnam-gu, Seoul. Ticket prices range from 60,000 to 140,000 won. Children aged eight years or older are allowed.