Swan Lake, Hope and Prayer

A while ago, I could not get Swan Lake out of my head.  Which was weird to me, since I was never a big fan of the ballet. But for some reason, the music, the Swan theme, kept on playing in my head. I decided to do something about it and embarked on a quest. I downloaded the entire score, and listened carefully. Firstly to the entire score, then only on the music for the White Acts.

That music… oh that music is just heavenly. The Swan theme is just so beautiful, sad, filled with tragedy, melancholy and longing. But also, strangely, hope. The more I listened, the more that music seemed to me like a prayer… a prayer from the heart, a desperate plea for something… redemption? love? freedom? happiness? I don’t know… But for me, that music represents Odette’s heart and its incessant prayer and its relentless hope.

Hope and prayer… the more I listened to the score, the more this seemed clear to me. One of teh most beautiful moments in the score, is the last minute or so before the end of the final act (is that called apotheosis or something? please forgive the lack of technical terms). The tune changes, the chords become light, the music makes me think of relief, disbelief, peace, happiness. It sounds to me, like a prayer being answered…

It was around this time that I watched Of Gods and Men, a movie about Trappist monks living in Algeria during the Civil War. It is one of the most moving, beautiful movies I have ever seen and it resonated with something deep inside of me. At a key moment, almost at the end of the movie, we hear the Swan theme. I started crying at that scene and did not stop for a long time.

Of Gods and Men

Of Gods and Men

The faith and love of the monks is overwhelming, but their doubt is familiar, and human.

This seems to surprise people, but I have faith. Well, at least, I try to have it. Faith in the future, in love, in an intelligence that is beyond my understanding, that everything happens for a reason and that someone or something out there, is looking after us.

It was with all this in mind that I started watching different versions of Swan Lake, trying to understand the music, the narrative, and the truth of the ballet. Some versions were garish, some were silly, some were very silly, something were quite clinical, and some were absolutely beautiful. The first time I cried was during Act II of La Scala’s version, with Roberto Bolle and Svetlana Zakharova. don’t really like this version, and was bored stiff by ACT I.  I don’t care much for Bolle, but Zakharova was breathtaking. I forgot that Bolle was even on stage, but her response to the choreography and the music resonated with me. I finally began to understand Odette with her interpretation.

I don’t like Royal Ballet’s version. I think it is too shiny, and a wee bit camp. I mean in Act III, Von Rothbart has evil looking dwarves around him. The White Acts are beautiful, and Marianela Nunez Odette is so delicate and her Act II pas-de-deux with Thiago Soarez is actually really hot. I believed that Odette and Siegfried not only loved each other, but wanted each other. Her forgiveness in ACT IV is so touching… But I find all the glitter and sparkle of the non-white Acts distracting…

My absolute favourite though is American Ballet Theatre’s version. If you follow me on Twitter, you probably saw me losing it a little over the ABT dancers, especially Herman Cornejo and Marcelo Gomes. But the entire ballet made sense to me, as a narrative, for the very first time. Siegfried’s emptiness and longing, Odette’s sadness, hope and forgiveness. Everything just clicked.

For me, Odette had faith. In love, in freedom, in a happy ending. In something that would end her suffering. She also had doubts, but chose to believe in Siegfried anyway and follow her heart.  I’m not saying she was religious, but having faith does not have to mean adherence to any religion.

It can simply mean having hope that there will be brighter days ahead.

This period has been a tricky period for me and my family, and I find myself listening to Swan Lake a lot.

Yesterday I was feeling a bit down, and was drawn to watch a few clips of Swan Lake on youtube. This time, I watched Yuhui Choe (whom I love) and her performance is so, so beautiful.

It made me feel better.

But as I keep on listening to the music in my head, I keep on thinking of faith, of longing and of hope.

There are many orders of Monks that believe that by praying for all humanity, they can help the world become a better place.

Whatever you believe, it can be quite comforting to know that someone, somewhere, is praying for you.


A summer without ballet

So yes… The Royal ballet season is over, and they are off on their tour soon. I cannot afford to see the Mariinsky and there is a pressing need for me to find money to pay the PhD fees. This means I will have no ballet until September. October to be precise since I am not sure I will be able to see Jewels…

Major ballet withdrawal!

But yes,  I will just have to rely on my vast library of ballet DVDs to get me through! Thanks to all the amazing friends and family who contributed to this collection



There are a few more over here:

And a few more lying around the place.

My wonderful hubby got me this as one of our anniversary presents:

Still in packaging. Will hopefully have time to watch it very soon! you know, when my kitchen ceiling stops linking,

I know this sounds lame beyond belief, but ballet means a lot to me, and I miss it.

OK, I can prove to you that I am not entirely lame: I can quote every West Wing episode. No? Still think I am lame? That is probably true, but also nerdtastic!

The Great Con

I don’t know if anybody has seen the BBC videos about the Royal Ballet. If not, please follow the link below. These videos really bug me, especially this one:


Ok, where to start? First of all, since when ballet is about seeing the expression on the dancers’ faces? For me it is about dancing, and portraying emotion through dance. Where I sit, high atop the amphitheatre, it is often difficult to see the detail on the dancers’ faces, and that does not subtract from the experience for me.

Second, and most irritating for me, is the claim that people have been enticed to see R & J at the O2 because of the prices: “£11 a head”. Well, you can also get tickets at Covent Garden for that price. All Royal Ballet triple bills have great seats in the amphitheatre for £13 and even better ones for £18. And you are much closer to the action than at the O2.

And this journalist even goes further saying that “they better not get used to these ticket prices, as tickets at the opera house cost as average of £100”. That is just bad journalism and a disgusting misuse of statistic. Having sat through countless statistics exams, this bothers me on so many levels.

This video report is actually encouraging the view that ballet is elitist and incredibly expensive. Technically yes, perhaps averaging out the price of tickets at ROH, from the incredibly expensive boxes to the £7 standing tickets does equal £100. But saying that an average ticket costs £100 implies that you would be hard pressed to find a decent ticket costing less that £100. Which is so not true.

Here is a selection of my Royal Ballet tickets covering the last 12 months or so:

As you can see, they are not even close to costing £100.

(actually, the image is not so great, so you can probably not see. The tickets are, from left to right, from the top: Scenes de Ballet/Voluntaries/The Rite of Spring: £18; La Fille mal Gardee: £28; Cinderella: £20; Ballo della regina/Live Fire Exercise: £10.20; Chroma/Tryst/Symphony in C:£11; La Valse/Invitus Invitam/ Winter dreams/ Theme and Variations: £18)

In fact, the most I have ever paid for a ticket is £51, for Alina Cojocaru’s Giselle. Actually, I did not even pay for them, as they were a graduation present from my parents (thank you).

Great seats. Actually, the best seats I have ever had at ROH. An amazing night. Still not £100.

And this is the great con, this idea that ballet is expensive. It is not that expensive. I mean, it can be very expensive, but it does not have to be.

Are you ready for a shocking revelation? It is more expensive to watch a football game than to go to the ballet. And I have proof:

The lovely husband and I are huge Tottenham Hotspurs fans. These seats are the second cheapest at White Hart Lane. And yet, they are still more expensive than all those 6 tickets picture above.

I do not mean to rant. But this really upsets me. It is a great con that has to be stopped. Ballet does not cost a fortune. Please do some research people, and do not be fooled by urban legend and bad journalism. The Royal Opera House is a wonderful place, that is open to everybody.

I hope you give it a try one day.