Bourne a swan

Posted On April 7, 2014
April 07, 2014

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake is not only an exceptional spectacle but has particularly challenging male roles. Wce talk to ensemble member, ex Clement Danes student Tom Clark

It’s hard to believe the controversy that surrounded Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake when it first launched in 1995. Despite alterations to the score and storyline and replacing the female corps de ballet with mostly men, Bourne’s version has become a modern-day classic.

Tom Clark has joined the tour ensemble for the second time, which was a surprise all round.

“I went into the show in 2009 straight from college where we toured the world and played Broadway. When I left the company I did West End shows, films and commercial work but then I had a major injury and a hip operation. I had a year out and was told I wouldn’t dance again. But Matt (Matthew Bourne) messaged me on Facebook and asked me to give Swan Lake another go so I did.  Rehearsals were tough, I was so relieved after the first run through I broke down and cried. My surgeon can’t quite believe I did it!”

Tom started dancing at Carol Kristian Theatre School, Chorleywood whilst at St Clement Danes school,

“At school nobody was bothered that I danced.  It’s more usual for boys to dance now because of Strictly and groups like Diversity. I saw Swan Lake at Sadler’s Wells when I was 15 and loved it, although at Carol Kristian Theatre School I was into hip hop and only  started to enjoy ballet later at college.”

Matthew Bourne is an inspiration, says Tom,

“ Matt is around during rehearsals and tours with us. He often tries out new ideas so the show is always fresh. The original Swan Lake recording and the 2013 3D version are very different. Comedy allows the audience to relax and enjoy the performance.”

Researching a part is as relevant in dance as drama. Matt Bourne studied live swans and Hitchcock’s The Birds and the company did the same,

“We watched how swans land on a lake and studied DVDs – one of my roles is a Cray twin!”

One of the things that makes the ballet so successful is the raw aggression of the male swans. In order to show muscle movement and the swans’ aggressive masculine side, chests and feet are left bare, which takes its toll on the dancers,

“We suffer splits in our feet and have to tape them – you often see swans sitting in an ice bath backstage!  The show demands so much stamina. We have a physio who travels with us.”

The lifelike movement of the swans is accentuated by the iconic shredded silk shorts they wear

“They cost around £1000 to replace so we are not popular if we rip them!” adds Tom

Swan Lake is a stunning show for dancers and audience alike and is especially moving in the finale,

“ It is so powerful, it takes your breath away.”



“This version makes more sense and provides greater entertainment than the traditional version. The addition of humour broadens the range of people to whom it appeals. Male swans make a lot of sense as they are very powerful and aggressive creatures combined with a serene grace on the water. Magical.”

Anne Kilvert

“Having seen a couple of Matthew Bourne’s other ballets, I wasn’t too surprised to find his version of Swan Lake different from the usual one. 
The acting (especially the comic bits from the ‘girlfriend’), and dancing were brilliant and held my attention throughout. The male dancers brought across how powerful and menacing these birds actually are in the flesh (especially in the last scene!)” Janet Morris

“In traditional ballet men just hold up the ballerinas and do an occasional athletic bit whereas in this ballet they were central to the whole thing. The occasional humorous parts added to the whole work without detracting from the feel of the whole ballet.”
John Dynes-first time ballet goer

” Very good dramatic use was made of the shadows of the dancers.”
Jane Fransella




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