It was blue swans that swamped me with delight the other day.
Idly surfing TV offerings, I happened to stumble over a magnificent version of that favourite ballet classic, Swan Lake, on the Arts Channel.
Now I like the swan story as much as the next averagely-interested dance fan. But this ballet is geriatric (more than 130 years old), usually rendered by gals in stiff white tutus and feathered head-dresses that are not much different from swan costumes worn decades ago.
The version I saw was radically different. The female dancers wore dresses with soft, rippling skirts, and as the story unfolded, suddenly the white look went to be replaced by a corps de ballet all in deep blue. Blue swans! And the choreography was updated, the movement both more passionate and more modern. Here was Swan Lake on steroids and I loved it.
As the credits rolled at the end, I realised I was desperately ignorant about the blue swans. The Australian Ballet production I saw was filmed back in 2008 and it was itself an update of an earlier radical version launched in 2002, partly as a nod to the love triangle between Charles, Diana and Camilla. That's old news now but for me, comjng fresh to this version of the ballet, it was a revelation. It has often toured around the world and has also just been staged again in Australia, prompting a reviewer to admire how 'the swans shed their demure past and came out fighting'.
The choreographer who dared to take a stiff old behemoth of a ballet and fluff up its feathers was Graeme Murphy. Great work, Mr Murphy! Big-blue thinking at its best.
Murphy makes us realise that no matter how set in stone anything seem, and no matter how lauded it is in traditional forms, it's always possible to re-imagine, re-think and re-design to come up with something daring and near-divine.