Tatler Philippines|July 2020
When the Russian choreographer Michel Fokine created the 1905 solo ballet dance The Dying Swan for prima ballerina Anna Pavlova, he meant for it to be a symbol of everlasting struggle. Danced to “Le Cygne”, the 13th and penultimate movement of The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens (c1886), the ballet interprets the fight against death of a badly injured swan. Little did Fokine know that 115 years later, his iconic work will play an important role in the struggle of ballet itself against a real threat to its existence.
The Covid-19 pandemic has closed the stage for an uncertain period, and ballet companies dependent on revenue from performances to pay their dancers and fund their operations are fighting to survive. As financial aid to their colleagues in the industry, international renowned ballet dancers Misty Copeland and Joseph Phillips put together the fundraising initiative they called Swans for Relief.
In a little over six minutes of video, 32 top ballerinas from 14 countries interpreted Fokine’s obra (work), not on stage but in their respective havens. Many, like Copeland, principal ballet dancer of the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), danced in the comfort of their homes, their pas de bourrée suivi taking them from the living room to the dining room to the kitchen. ABT’s Stella Abrera performed hers in the great outdoors of the Kaatsbaan Cultural Park for Dance in the Kaatskill Mountain where she has started as its new artistic director in January. It was Abrera’s first time to dance The Dying Swan and was grateful to Copeland and Phillips for the opportunity, albeit on a “virtual stage”. Hannah O’Neill of the Paris Opera Ballet was at the lanai of an island home, dressed appropriately in leotards and resort shorts. Denise Parungao of Ballet Philippines (BP) went up to the rooftop of her city condominium and another Filipina, Jemima Reyes looked like she was able to dance inside a studio. Clearly, the ballerinas gave enough attention to their performance venue, styling pieces of furniture with artwork and colourful accessories like cushions and plants.
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