Swan lake - Mourning the Regime
Today KVS celebrates a day of resistance against repression, fascism and needless governmental violence. In the context of the research, led by Belarusian choreographer Igor Shyshko, Deconstructivism, this evening we show an experimental choreographic snippet from the research. This part of the work is referring to Swan Lake, and features the Moscow-based dancer and choreographer Albina Vakhitova
Albina Vakhitova recently choreographed an alternative version of this ballet at the GES-2 Museum in Moskou, under the title ‘Lake’. The museum decided to produce three choreographies of the iconic piece in three successive years, underlining the historic and artistic importance of this piece and a contemporary take on repertory work for the current artistic scene.
What makes Swan Lake such a weird paradox these days, is the fact that it is both a cherished monument of Russian ballet culture, and a pinnacle of the export of artistic know-how to the rest of the world. But at the same time, the ballet has come to represent the instable interval periods that occurred from the death of Party Leader Brezhnev in 1982, over the fall of the Soviet Union, until the coming of Jeltsin in 1991.
After the death of Brezhnev, the piece was broadcasted on all national television channels over three full days. As a sign of mourning, but also as a moment to reorient the political orientations, and collaborations for the time to come. Since his death, many General Secretaries came and went, and every time the same scenario occurred, until the fall of the Soviet Union, the arrival of Gorbatsjov, and later Jeltsin. Every time Swan Lake was played on all stations. Both as a marker of a standstill in the political ruminations, of mourning, but also of revolution and internal change. Swan Lake for the Russian population, has become a marker of change and insecurity. Of waiting for a new beginning, and in that sense has taken on revolutionary potential. Or, seen differently, it heightens the instability underlying all political organisation on top.
Swan Lake, written on the musically revolutionary score of Pjotr Tsjaikovski, has had a similarly dubious history: its reception at the premiere was lukewarm at the most, and only in subsequent years and through the revival of the choreography by Petipa, the ballet became the iconic piece it is now. But it also underwent numerous changes, according to tastes and political views of the times. Under the Soviet regime, the evil magician Rothbart, instead of being the cause of the demise of the star struck lovers, is conquered. And in earlier versions Rothbart is not a man, but the evil stepmother of Odette. The pas-de-deux was added to the piece much later than its premier, to heighten the romantic ballet-spiel to the piece. And countless adaptations were made to the score after Tsjaikovski’s death.
All these elements point to the inner instability of a piece that, on first sight, seems such an iconic and monumental art work, surviving through the decades as a pinnacle of the Russian ballet. This is probably also what makes the work so attractive to the contemporary dance artistic scene in Russia. As dancer and choreographer Albina Vakhitova remarks, the beginning of the war, marked a complete change of time perception in Russia. The connections to the rest of the world markedly changed, and the war has an immobilising effect on the whole artistic scene, uncertain of how to proceed. Making art has become a tightrope dance of balancing and avoiding censorship, or even prison.
As it happened to theatre maker and film maker Kirill Serebrennikov, who recently premiered his movie Tsjaikovski’s Wife at the Cannes film festival, focussing on the difficult relation between the homosexual composer and his wife. Two years ago, the film maker was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to a three years suspended prison sentence. The court case caused great waves of protest in the artistic milieu, because it was claimed the court case was a fraudulous cover-up of censorship of the critical work of the artist.
This project was possible thanks to the support of the Flemish Community and the Flemish Government: Department of culture, youth and media.