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And there it was at the Coliseum, and exactly as it said on the packet: “Tchaikovsky meets street dance”. Why Fredrik Rydman needed to organise this madcap assault on the world’s best-known ballet – except because it is just that – is hard to fathom. There are, Heaven and my anguished recollections testify, vile traducings of this great work everywhere ballet is staged. (I would save only two versions from the shredder since they respect first intentions and honour the score: one at the Mariinsky Theatre, the other locally.) So cheers for Rydman’s mugging, which exposes the fatuity of contemporary views of Swan Lake.
It is manic, massively wrong-headed in certain perceptions (but, poor chap, Rydman has danced in the loathsome version choreographed by Mats Ek in Sweden, and must bear psychic scars) and at moments gloriously anarchic. Tchaikovsky is played in a reverberant recording by Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony, and is intercut with activities by pop musicians and some spiffy techno-rock. (My companion is a devotee, knows what is what, and advises me accordingly.)
The original narrative of a none-too-bright princeling, coup-de-foudre passion for a swan princess, betrayal, an evil genius, is variously respected by Rydman, if not quite in the way we expect. His swans are hookers, dress is modern and “significant”, the rest of the cast are variously modish, unlikely, and we perceive the drama through a kaleidoscope of dislocated, funny, scary activities, a frenzied lighting plan, the busiest scenery this side of a trip through the Alps, and coarse movement.
I understood about half of what I saw, did not give a damn about what was missed, thought that Rydman made some serious points about Swan Lake as sexual drama, and would send him to the galleys for what he did to the Tchaikovsky score. The cast are boisterous, tireless, and not a little tiresome in their look-at-me! manner. Odile’s 32 fouettés are given to a head-spinning chap, and the final moment – big cheers from me – finds a hailstorm of white feathers covering the stage. Rydman has a lively sense of theatre: “reloaded” also suggests “renewed”. Hurrah!