Leather, Feathers and Swans: A Few Things You Ought to Know About Bourne's Swan Lake

23/12/2013 15:21 GMT | Updated 19/02/2014 10:59 GMT

Ballet can be intimidating. There are all the tutus. The funny rules. The imposing theatres with their stern demeanors and unspoken dress codes. As someone not raised listening to string instruments and watching pirouettes, I understand.


My goal here on the Huffington Post is to explore the arts. I'll talk about theatre, musicals, exhibits, whatever. If there's ever anything you're curious about (like, hey, how can you get great price seats for Wicked, or just how long is Les Mis?), let me know. I'd love to help.

So let's start with leather, feathers, and shirtless men - otherwise known as Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, showing until January 26th at Sadler's Wells.

Bourne's Swan Lake in a few bites

This story follows the mental breakdown of The Prince and his love/lust for a swan. The Prince desperately wants his mother's affection. Unable to achieve it, he starts to crumble. A group of swans appear, offering him both shelter and destruction. He becomes intrigued by the main swan. Momentarily, he is lifted, flying.

Then everything comes crashing down in a cacophony of beautiful dancing, aggressive moves, and sharp sounds. The whole play unravels against Tchaikovsky's famous music. You probably know the tunes, even if you don't know the name. Think 'ominous swans', and you've got it.

What else should you know about Bourne's Swan Lake?

It isn't a traditional ballet. "There is not a pointe shoe in sight," Bourne notes. "I would say it is more aptly described as contemporary dance/theatre."

It's known for replacing the role of female swans with male swans. This initially created a certain amount of resistance. "When we first performed the piece... we regularly had 'walk-outs'," says Bourne.

It's incredibly sensual, often being described as homoerotic. "Which of course it is, but surely just 'erotic' would be a better way to view it," Bourne says.

And it's amazing. Seriously. The powerful dancers, the barbaric movement combined with shirtless sensuality, the imperial grace of the queen, the switch between feathered swans and leather-clad strangers, the quiet love stories woven together, it all creates something intensely compelling. The piece itself has received extensive critical acclaim and over 30 awards.

It's also worth noting that the version I saw had Jonathan Ollivier as The Swan, Simon Williams as The Prince, and Michela Meazza as The Queen. They're all fairly famous in their own right.

So if you want to go, how do you do it?

Securing tickets won't be easy. Like I mentioned, the show is currently running at Sadler's Wells, an approachable theatre near Angel, and is on until January 26th. Very few seats are left.

If you do secure a spot, go early and have a glass of wine. Drinks range from £2 - £7. There's no need to wear anything too fancy. Most audience members were in business-casual.

So there we are.

That's review number one. Just something honest, simple, and without any frills. Do ask any questions, or direct me to any favourite plays/exhibits/galleries. If they contain talented shirtless men, all the better.