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FULL EPISODE

Alexander Ekman's “A Swan Lake”

Though Swan Lake is perhaps the most famous ballet today, when it first premiered, it flopped. Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman reinterprets this forgotten version of the show in his first full-length narrative ballet, “A Swan Lake.”

AIRED: June 23, 2019 | 1:37:29
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TRANSCRIPT

[ Orchestra warming up ]

[ Applause ]

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[ Laughter ]

[ Motor whirring ]

All: Once upon a time...

in a city far, far

away...

Hut!

Hut!

[ Man speaking foreign language ]

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[ Shouting ]

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[ Birds chirping ]

Eva!

Eva!

Aah!

[ Woman screams ]

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It's okay.

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Eva!

[ Knocks on door ]

Hello.

Cinque? Venti?

No!

Eva?

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-[ Speaking foreign language ] -[ Screams ]

[ All shout ]

[ Speaks foreign language ]

[ All shout ]

[ Continues indistinctly ]

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[ Singing opera ]

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[ Children laughing ]

[ Giggling uncontrollably ]

[ Speaking foreign language ]

[ Shouting ]

Eva!

Eva!

Aah!

[ Woman screams ]

[ Mouths words ]

Eva!

♪♪

[ Knocks on door ]

Eva?

Cinque? Venti?

No.

-[ Singing opera ] -[ Screams ]

[ All shout ]

[ Woman speaking foreign language ]

[ Children laughing ]

[ Giggling uncontrollably ]

[ Shouting in foreign language ]

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[ Gunshot ]

[ Laughter ]

[ Birds chirping ]

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All: Ah.

[ Man speaks foreign language ]

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♪ Bravo, bravo, bravo

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[ Laughter ]

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[ Children laughing ]

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[ Singing opera ]

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Five, six, seven...

[ Man shouting in foreign language ]

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[ Woman screams ]

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[ Gunshot ]

[ Children crying ]

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♪ Ah

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[ Doors slamming, knocking rhythmically ]

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[ Thunder rumbling ]

[ Screaming ]

[ Wind whistling ]

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[ Singing opera ]

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[ Clock ticking ]

Pfft!

Eh!

Ah!

Fff! Fff! Fff!

Fff...

Eh!

Ah! Action!

Action. Action.

Hey. [ Speaks foreign language ]

Boom!

[ Panting ]

[ Imitates gun cocking, gunshots ]

Ugh.

[ Imitating gunfire ]

[ Laughter ]

Eh...

Deep male voice: Swans.

Swans.

Swans!

Swans! Yes!

Oh, swans!

Swans!

Yes! Swans!

Oh, swans!

Swans!

Humans dressed up as swans!

[ Ding ]

[ Laughter ]

Ridiculous!

Who's going to believe that?

We'll make them believe.

Don't forget the magic of the theater.

We'll make something great, something they'll never forget,

something avant-garde, sensual, beautiful, strange!

We'll make history!

Humans acting like birds is not going to work,

my friend, huh?

Why swans?

Why not something funny like a -- like a chimpanzee?

Too human.

Pigs? Too fat.

Parrots? Too talky.

Cats? Too musical theater.

Ants? Too small!

Horses, yes, horses!

The horse is a powerful animal.

People can relate to horses, you know?

Hmm. "Horses the Musical."

Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no. I'm not doing a musical.

Why? It's too unrealistic.

Then you're fired!

All right. All right.

I'll do the musical, but it has to be about swans.

Yeah, yeah, whatever.

Yeah, yeah, I'm just, uh, throwing out options.

I don't need options!

I can already see it. It's in here.

Don't question me.

I'm a vessel.

What kind of vessel?

What kind of vessel?

Yeah. I -- I'm just a vessel.

Things come to me.

It goes in here, goes out there, goes in here,

goes out there, pours over the audience.

Just trying to help.

Yeah, don't do that!

Respect the vessel.

Ah. Now it's gone.

I was in the zone.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

You broke it.

You broke it!

Yeah.

Just look at all those normal people

walking the Earth, looking for meaning.

Yeah. Look at you.

Look at you. Look at you.

We can help them, you know?

We can give them something,

distract them with the art of modern dance!

What?!

We were talking about a musical with swans.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

Heh, heh, what's the story?

Story? Yeah.

Well, they just move around.

What are these birds of yours going to do actually?

I mean, uh, nobody writes stories about swans, do they?

Nobody writes stories about swans?

For a good reason. They got no brains.

Oh, I think they got brains. It's just very small.

It's like the size of a fucking peanut.

No, I think it's a little bigger than that.

Yeah, yeah. What's the story?!

The story will come. Give me a story!

It will come. I want a story!

It will come! It will come! A story! A story!

It will come! It will come! A story! A stor--

♪♪

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"A Swan Lake."

"Once upon a time in Germany,

there was a lake filled with swans.

There was a prince."

My name's Siegfried. [ All gasp ]

"His name was Siegfried. He arrived at his 21st birthday.

There was a celebration at the castle in a courtyard.

Everybody was dancing and rejoicing."

All: What a great party!

"After 21 fucked-up years with something called royalty,

everybody was acting as if this was completely normal."

All: This is normal!

-"They were cheering..." -Whoo!

"...laughing..." [ Laughter ]

"...dancing, drinking, eating and greeting.

Suddenly, his mother, the Queen, approached him

and gave him rather shocking news."

♪ Ah

"She told him..."

♪ Your marriage will be arranged by the court ♪

"Realization of his future responsibilities suddenly hit."

All: Realization suddenly hit!

-"Terrified..." -Oh!

"...he called his friends together."

Juan, Pablo, Paco!

"And they ran off into the woods,

and they ran and ran..."

All: Run! Run!

"...did some ballet steps along the way.

Grand jeté, grand jeté,

a little turn, and chaînés, chanés.

He tripped over a rock and fell to the ground.

He looked up. He looked down and all around,

to the right, to the left.

He became a rabbit or a dog..."

[ All bark ] "...rolled around on the floor,

and that's when he saw it!"

All: [ Gasp ] What is that?

"The most beautiful swan he had ever seen

gently floated across the lake, and he didn't really understand

the strange attraction to this bird,

and what was even more peculiar

was that the swan had a large silver crown on its head.

[ All gasp ]

"This swan was no ordinary swan.

At night, she transformed into a beautiful woman called..."

-Odette! -"...Odette!"

-Ooh, yeah! -"She told the prince,

'I'm under a spell, and only true love can save me.'"

All: No pressure!

"And the prince fell for her."

No, no, only the prince.

"The following evening, there was a celebration

at the castle for the prince to find a wife.

-Suddenly..." -Oh!

"...from the rose bud, the evil wizard entered

with his beautiful daughter, Odile..."

All: Odile!

"...who looks just like the real swan queen,

and the prince, mistaking Odile for Odette,

dances with her and declares his love."

All: I love you!

-"Suddenly, a vision..." -A vision!

"...of the real swan queen appears,

and the prince realizes he has been fooled."

All: Fool!

Wah, wah, wah!

"The end."

Oh.

[ Applause ]

Thank you.

All: Thank you! [ Doors slam ]

That's it?

Yes, uh, that's it.

It's crap. The ending sucks.

Oh, wait! I'll change the ending!

Um,no problemo.

[ Echoing ] Suicide...suicide.

They both die, commit suicide.

Yeah, that's great. I love a good suicide.

Go do your research. Oh, thank you!

Oh, I will not disappoint you.

I will make the most beautiful musical

ever with a little modern dance.

Oh, yes, it is going to be so beautiful.

Oh, this is going to be so beautiful.

I will just have to find the perfect swan movement.

[ Static ]

Narrator: With the grace and poise of a dancer,

a lone swan, royalty among waterfowl,

skates smoothly across the face of a lake.

She is doubled by her rippling reflection.

The white feathers and arching neck

are defining features that have stimulated human minds

for millennia.

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Like all animals, the dignified swan is a competitor

on the vast game board of life.

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Swans on the wing group together

in flocks according to the geometry adopted

by most large migrators, the flying V.

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Until recently, the mechanics of this form were a mystery.

Now it has become assumed

that migrating birds flap their wings

according to a most precise rhythm.

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Swans find one another, couple, and stay with one another,

passing through the breeding season as a unit.

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More famously than any other animal, they mate for life.

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What a swan thinks about its mate we may never know,

but we feel that a lone swan is an incomplete unit.

Would imagine a swan most sentimental.

The sight of a pair

adrift on the calm feast of the waters

as one of the most beautiful and encouraging

in all of the animal world.

[ Knocking on door ]

-Forenzo? -Yes?

So many diverse species of swan -- the barn owl,

the blue tit, the thrush, the swallow.

-Forenzo? -Yes?

Are you absolutely sure about swans?

Before committing to the species,

you should know that they are nasty, violent, ruthless,

vengeful, egotistical creatures that bite.

Bite?

Bite.

I don't see why you wouldn't choose,

say, ostriches, penguins, flamingos,

hummingbirds, or my favorite,

the lilac-breasted roller.

Whoop. Or eagles for that matter.

At least eagles look as mean as they are.

Swans are deceptive.

Well, uh, that's why I love them!

They are dangerous and complex under all that beauty.

I've already made my decision.

Fine. Great.

Wonderful. Lovely.

Tremendous. Terrific.

Awesome. Exciting.

Exhilarating. Beautiful.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Swans.

Fine. Great.

Wonderful. Lovely.

Tremendous. Terrific.

Awesome. Exciting.

Exhilarating. Beautiful.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Swans.

But, Forenzo, you'll have to make an artistic choice here.

I'm not sure it's an authentic swan you want.

You do realize, they are dancers, after all.

Why let reality get in the way of a good story?

It's not "National Geographic."

Create your own swan.

Create my own swan?

Drugs.

I've seen the wildest things.

I'm high right now.

Down, please.

I don't know. You're the magician here.

Create, surprise them.

Are they satisfied?

Areyou satisfied?

Well, show me then.

Fine. High five.

There are five basic positions to the swan.

Position one: wings to the side, neck erect, swooping position.

Nothing much else happens here.

Position two: wings to the side, head submerged underwater,

picking for food in goodness knows what.

We're not quite sure what goes on underwater.

Position three...

[ Hisses ]

Move! Move! Get the fuck out!

Position four: wings to the side, big air.

We call this flying.

Fly, fly to position five: head on wing, feathers relaxed,

sleeping swan.

[ Snores ]

♪♪

Thank you.

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♪ Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na ♪

I can hear it.

I can hear it, the music.

Listen.

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[ Laughs ]

Yes! Yes!

[ Laughs ]

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Still looking, huh?

[ Laughs ] Oh, now, now, look.

Oh. I -- I really think I found

some very beautiful swan movement, oh, yes.

Oh, let me show you.

What about this? Upside-down swan.

Great. Yes, and the "Entertainer" swan.

Yeah, yeah. That's funny.

Yes, yes. And, oh, roller coaster swan.

Wow. [ Chuckles ]

And "The Great Escape" swan.

Ah. And this sexy swan.

Ooh, la, la! [ Chuckles ]

[ Sobs ]

No, I have to be honest with you.

Huh?

I haven't found anything. Ah.

I have nothing, nothing, nothing!

Come on. Let's go for a run.

So, how's the process been?

Well, I watched documentaries for a while,

and that was fascinating,

and then I talked to this ornithologist.

She was very exciting but a little scary.

Yeah? She must be special.

The Artist: It's been very helpful.

Oh. The story is so good.

And the music is just fantastic.

The Producer: Yeah?

And now all the dancers are waiting for me

to give them the perfect swan movement,

and I have nothing, nothing, nothing.

Come on. You're a genius.

No. I'm ugly.

No. You're not ugly.

Have you tried the whistle thing?

Yes. I've been doing the whistle for hours,

and I think it's broken or something.

[ Sobbing ] Oh.

There will be no more bird jokes!

Oh, come on.

Let's just stop, stop here for a couple of minutes, okay?

Let's just wait for inspiration to come to us.

Yeah. [ Chuckles ]

Okay.

Huh?

Still nothing?

Still nothing.

Ah, that's a shame.

That's a shame, man. You're fired.

[ Children laughing ]

♪♪

Look at the children.

Oh, look at the children.

Oh, so beautiful.

Oh, that's it. That's it.

Oh, that's it, so simple and so beautiful.

I've got it now.

I have got it now. Oh!

It's going to be a ballet, a ballet.

It will be done for hundreds of years.

Oh, it's coming to me now. It's coming to me.

It's going to be so beautiful. Here it comes.

Here it comes. Ice, smoke enters the stage.

Ice, smoke. That's it.

And they enter the stage and bourrée,

they bourrée forward, floating swans,

slightly worried, they're under a spell.

Under a spell. Oh! [ Laughs ]

Oh, this is it. Oh, this is it.

Very fast heel movement. It looks like you're floating.

Tip-toe, tip-toe, very fast.

No. Yes!

With the tension in the arms.

We are magnificent.

Tension in the arms...

[ Continues indistinctly ]

[ Music intensifying ]

Up and down. Up...and down.

They go sideways in lines, they cross each other.

This is magnificent.

Sideways, 12 dancers, next line.

Beautiful babies.

Taut!

Men in tights, men in tights.

Oh, it's going to be so beautiful.

This is it. It's building up.

Five, six, seven, eight.

Oh, the evil wizard!

[ Continues indistinctly ]

[ Music intensifying ]

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All: Thank you!

[ Applause ]

Man: [ Whispering ] You broke it.

Just look at all those normal people walking the Earth,

looking for meaning.

Look at you.

Look at you.

Look at you, see no fear.

We can help them, give them something.

We, the swans.

[ Multiple voices whispering ]

I can already see it.

It's in his...

[ Voices whispering indistinctly ]

I mean, nobody writes starts about swans.

Nobody writes starts about swans.

-Ridiculous. -You're not helping.

-Don't do this. -Who's gonna believe that?

I think it's a little bit bigger than that.

Right, let's drop it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let's drop it.

-Yeah, yeah, yeah. -Broke.

[ Voices whispering indistinctly ]

Just look at them.

You're not helping. Don't do that.

[ Voices whispering indistinctly ]

Now it's broken. You broke it.

You broke it.

Just look at them, those normal people.

Horses.

Yeah. The horse is a powerful animal.

People can relate to horses, you know?

[ Voices whispering indistinctly ]

[ Voices whispering indistinctly ]

Nobody writes stories about swans.

For a good reason. They got no...

[ Voices whispering indistinctly ]

It's just very small.

[ Voices whispering indistinctly ]

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[ Slap reverberates ]

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[ Slaps reverberating ]

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Oh.

Oh.

Oh!

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[ Laughter ]

[ Playing loud notes ]

[ Laughter ]

[ Playing tune ]

♪♪

[ Laughter ]

[ Playing note rhythmically ]

Woman: Places!

Whoop!

[ Playing tune ]

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Places!

Five, six, ready, go!

All:Ja!

Woman: Places!

Go now!

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Five, six, ready, go!

All:Ja!

[ Orchestra playing ]

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Ja!

[ Claps twice ]

[ Laughter ]

Thank you!

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Five, six, ready, go!

Whoo!

Five, six, ready, go!

Whoo!

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[ Children laughing ]

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Woman: Places! Places!

Five, six, ready, go!

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All:Ja!

Man: Roberto!

Roberto... [ Speaking foreign language ]

Roberto...

Roberto...

[ Speaking foreign language ]

Roberto...

Roberto...

Roberto!

[ Speaking foreign language ]

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Roberto...

Roberto...

Roberto...

[ Speaks foreign language ]

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-Friends, hey, hey! -Hey, hey!

♪ Da-da da-da da-da da

♪ Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey-hey ♪

♪ Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey-hey ♪

♪ Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey-hey-hey-hey ♪

-Hey! -Hey!

-Hey, hey, hey! -Hey, hey!

-Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! -Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!

Hey-ey-ey-ey-ey! Hey-ey-ey-ey-ey!

Five, six, ready, go!

One, two, three, one!

Five, six!

One, two, three, four!

Five, six!

[ Singing opera ] One, two, three, four!

Five, six!

[ Continues singing opera ]

[ Hair dryer blowing ]

What is this?! Aah! Ah!

[ Electricity crackling ]

[ Screaming ]

[ Cheers and applause ]

Hello?

[ Laughter ]

Hello?

Where are you?

Are you okay?

Huh?

[ Piano playing ]

I'm so afraid now.

I want to go home.

Oh. [ Whimpers ]

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[ Singing opera ]

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Where'd the light go?

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Have you seen the light switch?!

I found the light switch!

Yeah!

[ Cheering ]

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[ Continues singing opera ]

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[ Laughs ]

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[ Rain pattering ]

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[ Laughter ]

[ Applause ]

[ Cheers and applause ]

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