A bevy of black swans circled our car parked near to the lake’s edge. It was my first encounter with a black swan, nose to beak, separated only by a wind-up wind-down window pane. I would have been no taller than one of the swans, had I’ve been out of the car. I remember feeling awestruck by their scale, their very presence. And yet as I was four-years-of-age, or thereabouts, is this a later addition stitched to a memory derived from family folklore? My Mum recalled one of the swans hopped up on the car’s bonnet, but wonders now if such a spectacle is likely. A small car buried beneath a mountain of feathered bodies, it is almost a cartoon image — better yet, a cinematic one — when viewed from a human perspective. In territorial union to our intrusion, the swans rallied, and looped for me a definitive impression of swans, lakes, and Tchaikovsky.
The swans of my memory and family folklore were not so unlike the hissing, awe-inspiring Chimeras within Jean-Christophe Maillot’s LAC, a modern telling of Swan Lake, performed with attack by the renowned Ballets de Monte-Carlo. Imposing, glorious, memorable.
In LAC, Maillot, together with writer Jean Rouaud, resurrected “these buried experiences”, albeit against a more “Machiavellian, family backdrop …. to present a ballet of contrasts. The change from animal into human being infuse[d] the entire work and question[ed] our own nature. We believe that we differ from animals because of our ability to make choices. But is this all we are capable of? …. Perhaps our humanity ultimately lies in this unsophisticated insatiability that defines us from our first cry — We want everything!”
"There are no days more full in childhood than those days that are not lived at all, the days lost in a book. I remember waking out of one such book beside the sewing-machine beneath the window on the river in the barrack living room to find my sisters all around me. They had unlaced and removed one of my shoes and placed a straw hat on my head. Only when they began to move the wooden chair on which I sat away from the window light did I wake out of the book, to their great merriment.”
This “strange and complete happiness when all sense of time is lost, of looking up from the pages and thinking it is still nine or ten in the morning, to discover it is well past lunchtime” author John McGahern describes mirrors my own “pure, unfathomable joy" when adrift within a ballet performance. For my pleasure’s own sake, it feels, the structure of time is turned on its head. A close solidarity is formed in the theatre and my affection grows with each visit. I have, in the space of a very short time (but, time, what is that?) become a balletomane (though what to do with that clunky ‘t’?). A devotee of ballet, it requires less self-discipline than a dancer, and all of the gratification.
Recently landed: "Aloft, birds look like parts of the sky that have broken loose", a new post on High Up in the Trees (by Gracia) takes you to The Australian Ballet's 168th performance of Graeme Murphy's Swan Lake