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Idan Cohen’s “Swan Lake” Soars into the 21st Century

Posted on 23 August 2009 by Deborah Friedes Galili

Idan Cohen's "Swan Lake"

Idan Cohen’s Swan Lake.  Photo by Marek Weis.

During a preview of the Maholohet festival at Suzanne Dellal in June, the sounds of Tchaikovsky’s famous Swan Lake filled the air.  But what I saw on stage had no overt connection to the images which popped into my mind: a ballerina executing 32 fouettes, four petite dancers doing petit allegro with their arms interlinked, and row after row of “swans” waving their arms like powerful wings.

I was intrigued, and a few weeks ago, I sat down with choreographer Idan Cohen to hear about his contemporary take on one of the most famous ballets in history.  While the three minutes I saw of his work caught my eye, I’m now even more curious about the entire piece.  This is an unmistakably 21st-century Swan Lake, but the connections to the popular 18th-century version run deep.

This article was first published in the Jerusalem Post as “When the Cygnet Grows Up.”

* * *

When the Cygnet Grows Up

“I think the only reason to create something has to be out of love and out of a connection,” states choreographer Idan Cohen.

Like many in the dance world, Cohen feels a strong love for and a deep connection to Swan Lake, the iconic ballet which Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov presented at the famed Mariinsky Theatre in 1895.  Celebrated choreographers from George Balanchine to Mats Ek to Matthew Bourne have put their own spins on the work.  Now with the generous support of several organizations, including Israel’s Culture Ministry, the Pais Foundation and the Suzanne Dellal Center, Cohen is unveiling his own contemporary version in Tel Aviv.

Cohen cites the choreographic history of Swan Lake as one motivating factor in undertaking this production, and he adds, “I feel I have a very deep connection both to the music [by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky] and also to the cultural place that the music and the ballet takes inside our culture, the western culture.  Swan Lake presents such a beautiful, romantic image of strong forces: good opposite evil, beauty opposite alternative beauty, animal versus human . . . all those ideas that are portrayed in Swan Lake in such a defined way – I kind of wanted to open them up and to research how we relate to those forces today.”

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