So, I went to a lovely performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake by the Russian National Ballet Theatre this weekend. (In case you don’t know the story: the Evil Dude Rotbart has turned a bunch of Lovely Girls into swans. One night Prince Siegfried goes hunting with his buddies, sees the swans, falls for the Most Beautiful Swan, and professes his undying love. His promise of eternal love breaks Evil Dude Rotbart’s spell and the Most Beautiful Swan and her friends are free to be girls again. But shortly thereafter in a moment of male forgetfulness Prince Siegfried swears his love to Random Girl [who, in his defense, does look an awful lot like the Most Beautiful Swan]. M.B. Swan’s heart is broken and Evil Dude Rotbart’s spell descends back upon her. Then the Prince realizes what he’s done! He fights Evil Dude Rotbart! He wins, killing E.D. Rotbart and freeing M.B. Swan forever! They all live happily ever after!)
Anyway, the scene in which Prince Siegfried goes crossbow hunting with his buddies was really helpful, because now I have a visual of what it looks like when my own uncles, Salvie, Alfio, and Michael, go hunting with their bows. I knew all that stuff about boots and orange vests and flannel-lined jeans was a load of baloney. Next time they go I’ll ask if I can join them, and I’ll wow them with my professionalism by showing up in white tights and a ruffly shirt and pointing my bow randomly at the sky with excellent extension and a soulful expression on my face.
The performance was beautiful; the swans in particular took me into this pleasant otherwordly place. It made me think of the movie “Billy Elliot,” and I remembered that at the end of that movie (don’t worry, not really a spoiler), Billy is all grown up and dancing in a production of Swan Lake that has reversed the sex roles– am I remembering it right? Isn’t Billy playing the role of the Most Beautiful Swan?
And that got me thinking about how neat it would be to write a retelling of Swan Lake that reversed the genders roles. I adore retellings of traditional tales– Robin McKinley, Donna Jo Napoli, Gregory Maguire, I’m about to start A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Dunce– help me out, who else, do any of you have favorites? And, can any of you think of retellings where the gender roles are reversed or played with in some wonderful way?
Food for thought… maybe I can plan to rewrite Swan Lake with reversed gender roles in the year 2019…..