Swan Lake: Recalibrated
Created by Alex Ketley
Music and Media:
Poetry and Text:
Premiered February 2014
Swan Lake: Recalibrated was commissioned by Stanford University and was a collaboration between the school’s students, The Foundry company members, media artist and composer Les Stuck, and california poet Carol Snow. The idea behind the piece was not to create a contemporary interpretation of the narrative, but rather to look at Swan Lake as an enduring cultural artifact. From there the artists teased out the mechanics that reside in Swan Lake, and used those ideas as a driver to inform a contemporary impression of the classical work. The final piece was performed in an installation by designer Erik Flatmo.
Stanford Arts Review
“When I watched Swan Lake: Recalibrated in late February, I was immediately struck by the exploration of the blurred lines between movement and language. “Bodies” didn’t even come to mind as they normally do when I watch dancers move; it seemed as if human ties dissolved entirely into a unique kind of motion. The darkness of Swan Lake was clearly palatable, but this time fragmented through an abstract, modern lens.
Created by Alex Ketley, a professor in the Dance Department and director of The Foundry in San Francisco, Swan Lake: Recalibrated boasted a small, yet incredibly talented ensemble. Held at the back of Memorial Auditorium, the set consisted of a dimly lit white diamond-shaped floor, rusted asymmetrical poles, and video projections on a hanging sculpture. Most importantly, the set was very intimate and compact to experiment with how audience members experience performance space.
The production’s narrative only vaguely resembled the much-loved classic, and instead focused on peculiar kind of movement. Alyssa Wright (’16) of the ensemble notes, “The movement was reliant on more than just the physical. There’s so much emotion, thought, complexity within each flex of the foot or opening of the hand. There’s an organic, intimate relationship that the dancer fosters with the movement.” Ketley retained much of the traditional ballet movement, but also incorporated dynamic angles and fluid sequences for a post-modern feel. Supplementing the movement was composer Les Struck’s diverse and volatile score that evoked tension and drama throughout the performance.
Toward the close of the show, poet Carol Snow emerged from the audience and together with the “Swan” performed a unique dance-dialogue sequence. It felt both strange and right; Carol and the Swan read their poems in sequence as the Swan continued to dance harrowingly. Cast member William Funk (‘16) says, “The first time we watched the scene, you could have heard a pin drop. It perfectly illuminated the concept of the production as a reinterpretation of the Swan’s perspective. The dancer was discussing the act of portraying a swan and Carol was reacting as an audience member.” The dialogue allowed for the “Swan” dancer to express how she emotionally and physically felt portraying a swan.
Reinventing an iconic piece within a genre of dance that values custom is a daunting task, yet Ketley’s production was seamless. Swan Lake: Recalibrated didn’t take the traditional road, but gave tradition a push with heightened aesthetics, movement, and delivery.”