REWRITING THE ENDING OF SWAN LAKE
AMODERN TWIST FOR A CLASSIC TALE

Written by Wendy Buss 2018

One of the high points of my trip so far has been to see St Petersburg Ballet Theatre perform ‘Swan Lake’ at Her Majesties Theatre . It was a sublime and magical experience. Suddenly for the first time in my life I felt I really ‘got’ the ballet .
The dancers in exquisite ( impressively ironed ) costumes all dancing in perfect unison with no doubt months of strenuous and relentless training . pain ,sweat and toil paying off on the night to make the dancers appear so light effortless and magical.
I was stuck by the absence of noise on the stage .Narry a footstep was heard on the stage except in a ballroom scene when traditional Baltic costume required some of the dancers to wear a soft boot and then came a rhythmic click and a tap but other than that I have to say the dancers danced for the most part silently as if floating on air.
Page 1
Then the magical accompaniment of Tchaikovsky’s soundtrack which I can imagine originally would have been played by a real life orchestra .All those beautiful familiar moving classical pieces suddenly set in context.
I have to say also the muscular and very well toned male dancers strutting and leaping around the stage with such manly certainty in those tights showing off every bulge and curve certainly adding a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ and pleasing eye candy for the ladies .
Then the prima ballerina Irena Kolisnikova magnificant as she came downstage clearly revelling in the role of the glittering villianess Odile her eyes flashing with fire and passion as smiled at us drawing us into her spell compelling us to fall at her feet in adoration.

She was an extraordinary and beautiful dancer and as she took her bows and received her floral bouquet at the end one could imagine all the little girls in the audience vowing that one day that would be them.
As I watched the show I wasn’t clued up on the story of Swan Lake and tried my best to piece it together I drove the couple next to me nuts by asking so many questions and in the end during the final break I went and bought a programme where I was able to read the story of Swan lake being recounted a fairytale by a year old Russian girl to her father.
The story in a nutshell is that Prince Siegfried needs to find a bride and upon heading out into the forest to try out his new crossbow comes across a bevy of beautiful swans .As he watches them in fascination ,one of them magically transforms into a beautiful princess .She tells him her name is Odette and she is a princess who along with her maidens has been cursed by an evil sorcorer called Rothbart .The curse is such that until a kiss is bestowed on her by one who loves her only and is sworn to fidelity to her she is doomed for the rest of her life to spend most of her time as a swan .
Predictably Siegfried is overcome by Odette’s beauty and plight and woos and wins Odette’s heart .The Prince invites her to the palace ( presumably in that short window of a few hours a day when she is allowed to resume her human form )so she can be introduced to Siegfried’s mum the Queen as his new prospective bride but evil sorcerer Rothbart hears of the lovers plans and thwarts them preventing Odette from attending the ball.
Instead at the palace celebrations, Rothbart rocks up in disguise as a foreign noble with his daughter Odile in tow .The diabolical duo hatch a plan to trick Siegfried who is convinced Odile is in fact his swan lady love Odette. He falls completely under Odile’s spell and she toys with him mercilessly getting him to pledge his undying love for her and tricking him into betraying his love for Odette whom he can no longer rescue with loves faithful kiss. Overcome with rage and pain in the days following Siegfried summons super human strength and manages to kill Rothbart thus breaking his evil spell and hold over Odette and her maidens and Siegfried and Odette live happily ever after.
Don’t get me wrong I was compelled by the Melodrama and gripped with the spinetingling thrill and shock and awe of the diabolically nasty Rothbart in all his magnificent darkness and the nastier he was and the more Odette languished and suffered the more gripping and compelling the spectacle seemed.
There’s a reason fairytales still resonate in the collective psyche and enthrall us as they do for they are the storyscape in which the archtypes battle it out in the fight between good and evil .
Maybe the story of Swan Lake holds true because everyday all over the world beautiful women are killed tortured thwarted and maimed by twisted troubled damaged men.
Maybe this story resonates because women really yearn for their men to step up and be the heroes they need them to be and bring of their best to their relationships.
Maybe Swan Lake is such a success because it represents the triumph of good over evil and the evil sorcerer Rothbart gets his karmic comeuppance
However I felt a strange disquiet and discomfort as I read this time honoured fairy tale that has been brought to life by the worlds best ballet companies and celebrated revered and marvelled at by old and young down through time
See now herein ies the problem for me in that all the agency in the story lies completely with the blokes.Prince Siegfried and the evil sorcerer Rothbart. Odette the heroines fate and destiny is entirely decided by which bloke wins out in the battle between good and evil .

As the plotline became clear it was disquieting to me .A woman’s life was being seriously undermined and there seemed little she could do about her terrible fate . A woman passively suffering bondage imposed upon her by one man and her only chance for freedom is to be rescued by loves true kiss from another man Odette is given no agency to rise to her own challenges and overcome the obstacles that beset her on her own strengths and merits and finally stand triumphantly in the truth about herself as an authentic empowered woman .Odettes position in the story alas in the story of Swan Lake seems to be a helplessly passive one.
The message here is clear as it probably is in many fairytales of this age and this ilk that ultimately freedom and happiness might only come to a woman is she is the object of a mans devotion undying affections and it is up to the man to save the day ?
The dying swan beset upon by an evil twisted psychopathic villain Rothbart who was no doubt out to destroy what he couldn’t have and now she languishes waiting for loves redeeming kiss from her prince faithful and true who loves her only to revive her

Cast into bondage by one bloke waiting for another bloke to rescue her ?
I tremble a bit that here embedded in what our culture determines as high and classical artforms are imbedded such spurious and disempowering messages for women?

Isn’t this a bit of a tired dangerous cliché and a sad alignment to outdated notions of patriarchy ? Surely we need to think about these subliminal narratives and the message they are sending our children especially our girls
Besides which I do believe there is an altogether deeper story going on with Rothbart which probably in keeping with the developments in modern psychology it is high time it was brought out into the light .
I believe its extremely possible Rothbart is actually in love with Odette but feels by virtue of her purity and goodness that she is out of his league and this is why he treats her so cruelly . I think its fair enough in these modern times to look into the deeper recesses of Rothbarts twisted psyche and ask why he acts as he does towards Odette ?
If I was writing a ballet for modern times how would I rewrite the ending of Swan Lake to suit our more modern evolved enlightened times and for starters accord Odette some agency and control over her own destiny?
Lets see now .Maybe Odette instead of languishing and subjected to a fate of a diminished life demonstrates the power of a true heroine reaches out for support amongst her swan peers and elders and digs deep into her own soul strength to summons her own magic al powers to match and stand up to the evil bully and stand strong and firm in her power to withstand his wicked curses
Adopting an attitude of compassion Odette might point out to the evil sorcerer that surely he’s not happy living as he does being so nasty and encourages him to get some help to sort through the twisted rage and serious mother issues behind his narcissistic psychopathic tendencies and points him in the direction of a good psychologist ‘
Then the story could go two ways. Either Odette brushes herself off pulls herself together and reclaims the life she wants for herself with or without a man . If the prince has gotten under her skin and she hankers after him she sets off to find him and let him know as much and they get their happy ending.
Or as an ending with a complete surprise turn around some years later the villain Rothbart who after years of therapy and sorting his head out is over come with remorse for what he has done to Odette and he sets out in search of her and when he finds her throws himself at her feet begging her forgiveness . He admits he gave her such a hard time because he loved her but felt she was out of his league and he had infact tried to destroy what he couldn’t have.
In the course of proving both his reformed nature and his love Odette extends him her compassion and forgiveness discovers she has feelings for him and decides to give him a chance in love.
It might not make for the villainous dramatic high noon ending that grabs and tantalises the audience as in the traditional fairy tale but it certainly represents a more empowering narrative for our little girls
Odette as a true heroine shows them woman can summons their own magical powers of inner strength resilience and insight to stand up to the likes of Rothbart . Herein I feel lies the true magic of such an ending when a woman digs deep mobilizes her anger and indignation at being so treated and uses it to save herself Discovering that afterall she has a few magical powers of her own .
The message can be clear to its female audience that women can become empowered to stand up to bullies, psychopaths, tyrants and monsters and men behaving badly and call them on their bullshit .

Rather than languish in passive victimhood women can dig deep and can learn to come from a place of self love ,self empowerment and true agency and can move through and beyond suffering and can resurrect their lives and go out after what they want in life and love.
Ironically too Irena Kolesnikova who plays Odette in real life far from being a passive dying swan is clearly an empowered woman with the world at her feet as a truly sublimely talented and gifted principal ballerina ,happily married to Petersburg Ballet Theatres Founding Director Konstantin Tachkin and revelling in her new role as mother of a small daughter .
Maybe the stories that are being written now which will become the fairy tales and enchantments which ballet companies will bring to life in the future will embody such uplifting empowering real life magical messages for our young women. Wendy Buss June 2018

REWRITING THE ENDING OF SWAN LAKE
AMODERN TWIST FOR A CLASSIC TALE

Written by Wendy Buss 2018

One of the high points of my trip so far has been to see St Petersburg Ballet Theatre perform ‘Swan Lake’ at Her Majesties Theatre . It was a sublime and magical experience. Suddenly for the first time in my life I felt I really ‘got’ the ballet .
The dancers in exquisite ( impressively ironed ) costumes all dancing in perfect unison with no doubt months of strenuous and relentless training . pain ,sweat and toil paying off on the night to make the dancers appear so light effortless and magical.
I was stuck by the absence of noise on the stage .Narry a footstep was heard on the stage except in a ballroom scene when traditional Baltic costume required some of the dancers to wear a soft boot and then came a rhythmic click and a tap but other than that I have to say the dancers danced for the most part silently as if floating on air.
Page 1
Then the magical accompaniment of Tchaikovsky’s soundtrack which I can imagine originally would have been played by a real life orchestra .All those beautiful familiar moving classical pieces suddenly set in context.
I have to say also the muscular and very well toned male dancers strutting and leaping around the stage with such manly certainty in those tights showing off every bulge and curve certainly adding a little ‘je ne sais quoi’ and pleasing eye candy for the ladies .
Then the prima ballerina Irena Kolisnikova magnificant as she came downstage clearly revelling in the role of the glittering villianess Odile her eyes flashing with fire and passion as smiled at us drawing us into her spell compelling us to fall at her feet in adoration.

She was an extraordinary and beautiful dancer and as she took her bows and received her floral bouquet at the end one could imagine all the little girls in the audience vowing that one day that would be them.
As I watched the show I wasn’t clued up on the story of Swan Lake and tried my best to piece it together I drove the couple next to me nuts by asking so many questions and in the end during the final break I went and bought a programme where I was able to read the story of Swan lake being recounted a fairytale by a year old Russian girl to her father.
The story in a nutshell is that Prince Siegfried needs to find a bride and upon heading out into the forest to try out his new crossbow comes across a bevy of beautiful swans .As he watches them in fascination ,one of them magically transforms into a beautiful princess .She tells him her name is Odette and she is a princess who along with her maidens has been cursed by an evil sorcorer called Rothbart .The curse is such that until a kiss is bestowed on her by one who loves her only and is sworn to fidelity to her she is doomed for the rest of her life to spend most of her time as a swan .
Predictably Siegfried is overcome by Odette’s beauty and plight and woos and wins Odette’s heart .The Prince invites her to the palace ( presumably in that short window of a few hours a day when she is allowed to resume her human form )so she can be introduced to Siegfried’s mum the Queen as his new prospective bride but evil sorcerer Rothbart hears of the lovers plans and thwarts them preventing Odette from attending the ball.
Instead at the palace celebrations, Rothbart rocks up in disguise as a foreign noble with his daughter Odile in tow .The diabolical duo hatch a plan to trick Siegfried who is convinced Odile is in fact his swan lady love Odette. He falls completely under Odile’s spell and she toys with him mercilessly getting him to pledge his undying love for her and tricking him into betraying his love for Odette whom he can no longer rescue with loves faithful kiss. Overcome with rage and pain in the days following Siegfried summons super human strength and manages to kill Rothbart thus breaking his evil spell and hold over Odette and her maidens and Siegfried and Odette live happily ever after.
Don’t get me wrong I was compelled by the Melodrama and gripped with the spinetingling thrill and shock and awe of the diabolically nasty Rothbart in all his magnificent darkness and the nastier he was and the more Odette languished and suffered the more gripping and compelling the spectacle seemed.
There’s a reason fairytales still resonate in the collective psyche and enthrall us as they do for they are the storyscape in which the archtypes battle it out in the fight between good and evil .
Maybe the story of Swan Lake holds true because everyday all over the world beautiful women are killed tortured thwarted and maimed by twisted troubled damaged men.
Maybe this story resonates because women really yearn for their men to step up and be the heroes they need them to be and bring of their best to their relationships.
Maybe Swan Lake is such a success because it represents the triumph of good over evil and the evil sorcerer Rothbart gets his karmic comeuppance
However I felt a strange disquiet and discomfort as I read this time honoured fairy tale that has been brought to life by the worlds best ballet companies and celebrated revered and marvelled at by old and young down through time
See now herein ies the problem for me in that all the agency in the story lies completely with the blokes.Prince Siegfried and the evil sorcerer Rothbart. Odette the heroines fate and destiny is entirely decided by which bloke wins out in the battle between good and evil .

As the plotline became clear it was disquieting to me .A woman’s life was being seriously undermined and there seemed little she could do about her terrible fate . A woman passively suffering bondage imposed upon her by one man and her only chance for freedom is to be rescued by loves true kiss from another man Odette is given no agency to rise to her own challenges and overcome the obstacles that beset her on her own strengths and merits and finally stand triumphantly in the truth about herself as an authentic empowered woman .Odettes position in the story alas in the story of Swan Lake seems to be a helplessly passive one.
The message here is clear as it probably is in many fairytales of this age and this ilk that ultimately freedom and happiness might only come to a woman is she is the object of a mans devotion undying affections and it is up to the man to save the day ?
The dying swan beset upon by an evil twisted psychopathic villain Rothbart who was no doubt out to destroy what he couldn’t have and now she languishes waiting for loves redeeming kiss from her prince faithful and true who loves her only to revive her

Cast into bondage by one bloke waiting for another bloke to rescue her ?
I tremble a bit that here embedded in what our culture determines as high and classical artforms are imbedded such spurious and disempowering messages for women?

Isn’t this a bit of a tired dangerous cliché and a sad alignment to outdated notions of patriarchy ? Surely we need to think about these subliminal narratives and the message they are sending our children especially our girls
Besides which I do believe there is an altogether deeper story going on with Rothbart which probably in keeping with the developments in modern psychology it is high time it was brought out into the light .
I believe its extremely possible Rothbart is actually in love with Odette but feels by virtue of her purity and goodness that she is out of his league and this is why he treats her so cruelly . I think its fair enough in these modern times to look into the deeper recesses of Rothbarts twisted psyche and ask why he acts as he does towards Odette ?
If I was writing a ballet for modern times how would I rewrite the ending of Swan Lake to suit our more modern evolved enlightened times and for starters accord Odette some agency and control over her own destiny?
Lets see now .Maybe Odette instead of languishing and subjected to a fate of a diminished life demonstrates the power of a true heroine reaches out for support amongst her swan peers and elders and digs deep into her own soul strength to summons her own magic al powers to match and stand up to the evil bully and stand strong and firm in her power to withstand his wicked curses
Adopting an attitude of compassion Odette might point out to the evil sorcerer that surely he’s not happy living as he does being so nasty and encourages him to get some help to sort through the twisted rage and serious mother issues behind his narcissistic psychopathic tendencies and points him in the direction of a good psychologist ‘
Then the story could go two ways. Either Odette brushes herself off pulls herself together and reclaims the life she wants for herself with or without a man . If the prince has gotten under her skin and she hankers after him she sets off to find him and let him know as much and they get their happy ending.
Or as an ending with a complete surprise turn around some years later the villain Rothbart who after years of therapy and sorting his head out is over come with remorse for what he has done to Odette and he sets out in search of her and when he finds her throws himself at her feet begging her forgiveness . He admits he gave her such a hard time because he loved her but felt she was out of his league and he had infact tried to destroy what he couldn’t have.
In the course of proving both his reformed nature and his love Odette extends him her compassion and forgiveness discovers she has feelings for him and decides to give him a chance in love.
It might not make for the villainous dramatic high noon ending that grabs and tantalises the audience as in the traditional fairy tale but it certainly represents a more empowering narrative for our little girls
Odette as a true heroine shows them woman can summons their own magical powers of inner strength resilience and insight to stand up to the likes of Rothbart . Herein I feel lies the true magic of such an ending when a woman digs deep mobilizes her anger and indignation at being so treated and uses it to save herself Discovering that afterall she has a few magical powers of her own .
The message can be clear to its female audience that women can become empowered to stand up to bullies, psychopaths, tyrants and monsters and men behaving badly and call them on their bullshit .

Rather than languish in passive victimhood women can dig deep and can learn to come from a place of self love ,self empowerment and true agency and can move through and beyond suffering and can resurrect their lives and go out after what they want in life and love.
Ironically too Irena Kolesnikova who plays Odette in real life far from being a passive dying swan is clearly an empowered woman with the world at her feet as a truly sublimely talented and gifted principal ballerina ,happily married to Petersburg Ballet Theatres Founding Director Konstantin Tachkin and revelling in her new role as mother of a small daughter .