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Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake DVD

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This Swan Lake was the unexpected popular hit of 1996, when radical choreographer Matthew Bourne took Tchaikovsky's traditional ballet by the scruff of the neck and reworked it with a myriad of modern influences and themes to astonishing effect. Seldom have the dark psychological riptides at the heart of so many classical ballets been so brilliantly exposed. The Prince (Scott Ambler) is a wretched and dissolute young man dominated by his mother, the Joan Collins-like Queen (Fiona Ambler). Shades of Tennessee Williams, indeed. Von Rothbart becomes a press secretary, more sinister éminence grise than hissable villain. Most startling of all, The Swan (Adam Cooper) is a muscular, emphatically masculine male. Bourne has stressed the universality of his interpretation, which proved such a success for his Adventures in Motion Pictures dance company. And indeed this is never an overtly "gay" Swan Lake, although the electricity of the pas de deux at the height of Act 2 delivers a palpably homoerotic charge. Its universal threads--as Bourne suggests, the need to be held and understood is common to us all--are synthesised in the utterly moving conclusion as the Swan cradles the lifeless Prince and raises him to a better place. Swan Lake becomes a human, rather than simply romantic, tragedy. On the DVD: Swan Lake is presented in full screen 4:3 video format and this version would certainly have benefited from widescreen to show off the dazzling court and night club scenes as well as the lake and the impact of the all-male swan corps de ballet. But the lush Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound serves the rich interpretation of Tchaikovsky's score from The New London Orchestra to handkerchief-wringing effect. Extras include menu-driven resumes and a synopsis. --Piers Ford

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