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Performing Arts

What is the dance swansong?


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March 29, 2009 9:02PM

Swansong is a dance performed by a trio- two 'guards' and a 'prisoner', with the former torturing the latter. The prisoner's dances are anguished and clearly show his fear and pain. The other two characters' motifs and dances show power as they torment him. The dance is interesting, powerful and shows lots of emotion. The characters are usually all male, but the genders are not set and the use of women characters changes the character dynamics in many ways.

Swansong was choreographed by Christopher Bruce (a very famous and highly respected British choreographer) in 1987. It is based on real life human rights issues that Bruce had read about in a novel called 'A Man' by Oriana Falacci. A lot of Christopher Bruce's dances are based on real life issues and human rights, for example Ghost Dances and Sergeant Early's Dream. The music for Swansong is made up of electrically generated and manipulated sounds, formed after the dance was choreographed. The costume helps to depict the characters - the guards wear pristine uniforms that show authority and show us that they are working together. The prisoner wears tatty faded jeans and tshirt. The dancers are wearing tap shoes - this is particularly noticeable in the sections where the dancers use tapping and clapping to show Q&A communication between the prisoner and the guards as they interrogate him. There are a few different reasons as to why the dance is titled 'Swansong'. The word 'swansong' for a dancer means the last performance you ever give before you retire, and is derived from the idea that a mute swan only ever 'sings' one song, at the end of its life. The ending of the dance could also be seen as the prisoner's death, as the guards leave and he dances off into a shaft of light at the corner of the stage that has appeared throughout the dance, representing his freedom (though that could also simply mean he's released, it's left for the viewer to decide).