I’m not the biggest ballet fan I must admit. The closest I’ve previously been is seeing Bart Simpson perform it as the “spiky-haired masked dancer” and watching the unforgettable, enthralling and utterly dark romp that is Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky. In the context of a movie, ballet is paramount but it’s not a full feature ballet movie. So I was a little apprehensive when I was asked to go see real ballet with real people in a real theatre.
What I saw was Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake in Sadler’s Wells here in London. I was blown away. I was so moved, drawn in to the performance, I was on the edge of my seat at one point!
My vague knowledge on the subject of Swan Lake tells me that it’s not remembered for alcohol, fishnet stockings, firearms or having an all-male swan cast (male corps de ballet). This was a modern interpretation with loose borrowings from the original, yet I was shocked to learn Bourne’s Swan Lake is nearly 20 years old. It felt fresh, relevant and I could have believed it was launch night as the theatre was filled to capacity.
Throughout the acts I was treated to scenes of playful choreography, demure and bold characters, familiar scores and topless sweaty men.
The struggles and desires of the Prince is what keeps the performance moving and as I got into it I noticed that many of the characters could be interpreted as fragrances. I don’t think there was a strict storyline per se, many points in the dancers’ interactions were vague and loose without a definitive story arch. Nevertheless, I liked that I could interpret my own story.
Here’s what I imagined the perfumes and story of Bourne’s Swan Lake would be.
Dashing, trimmed, youthfully regal he’s also troubled, bored by his birthright, perhaps even in love with another man, the leading White Swan. The Prince encapsulates all that it is gentlemanly without being so royal as to be alienating. His story after all is the central theme and something has to connect with the audience. I believe his lust for the Black Swan makes him troubled, but also a real person. Full of confliction and desire for true freedom. The Prince’s character is sharp and well dressed and well to do, so I’ve chosen Grey Vetiver by Tom Ford for him. It embodies a sense of keeping up appearances and has a hint of earthiness, a down-to-earth quality in that big vetiver note that is the spirit of the Prince.
Aloof, inappropriate, silly and likable. The Girlfriend makes all the faux pas with the Queen (mother of the Prince). The Queen will not have it and finds her irritating and unfit as a partner for the Prince. The Girlfriend’s character is extremely likable, she has many “gag” moments and she’s simply in the wrong place, with the wrong crowd. She’s a bit like Angel by Thierry Mugler. Sweet, loud and innocent with an unmistakable personality. Angel is all that; caramel, patchouli, ever so slightly salty, with just the right amount of florals as to not be too old in nature.
The White Swan
The other leading male, the White Swan. I believe has two aspects to his character, one, is that he is the inner projection of the goodness of the Prince, his good nature. The other aspect, is that this character is a real man in the image of a swan that the Prince can’t help but fall for. The White Swan is elegantly masculine without toppling into the bravado of a peacock. He is graceful, timid at first, but full of compassion and would protect the Prince at all cost. He is Gris clair… by Serge Lutens. A soft amber heart with twinges of elegant lavender with the basenotes of strong, sturdy woods. Gris clair… is indeed potent but I think applying it conservatively shows its full nature even if the White Swan is white, and this fragrance is grey.
A Queen needs no introduction. Her charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent should set her apart. And this Queen can perform, can command the masses and remind everyone just who she is. As a mother she is loving, perhaps even tough. She knows what’s best but can’t help but fall for the Black Swan too when he makes his entrance known. She wears only the finest gowns, the most dazzling jewellery and has her face and hair down to perfection. I think Shalimar by Guerlain best embodies her. Not for any far eastern connotations, but for the opulence of the fragrance being fit for a queen and the warmth and sweetness of it being fit for a mother. Shalimar is femininity. That vanilla base, that bergamot opening, that hint of civet so as to be just the right amount of darkness to the Queen in Bourne’s Swan Lake, is everything her character is.
The Black Swan
The other, other leading male. Chest. Leather. Riding crop. Crotch thrusting. The Black Swan is masculinity on overdrive, erotic, flirtatious, intimidatingly intense and a feast for the eyes and no doubt body. Despite his attractions, the Black Swan in Bourne’s Swan Lake is something of a tease and lewd. Not content with one woman, two women, three or four, the entire cast “swan” over him, and he in return, including of course the Prince. His lust and disgust for the Black Swan is anything but palpable and will turn to the darkside to get what he wants too. The Black Swan is Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent. Kouros is the epitome of a man at his peak something like Patrick Bateman, seems alright at first, but is dark and nasty underneath. The Black Swan is somewhat similar, giving the impression of honey notes, and a spicy thrill, but you know will end up smelling like skank and urine by the end of the night.
What do you think?
Have you seen Bourne’s Swan Lake or Aronofsky’s Black Swan? Do the perfumes match the characters? Or am I losing my mind like Natalie Portman? On that last note I urge you to head over to The Black Narcissus’ blog and read his fantastic write up of Black Swan and the hidden perfume within.