You couldn’t imagine a duller setting for ’The Dying Swan’. Just a whitish backdrop and some cardboard signs indicating “spotlight” or “precipice” – and on top of it: a man in grey doing the swan. But this is precisely the point of Martin Hansen’s ‘Monumental’ as a tongue-in-cheek remake of the arch-romantic signature piece of legendary ballerina Anna Pavlova. A stark deconstruction to demonstrate the impossibility of reconstructing the past, but also to explore the desperate longing ingrained in classical ballet.
He gracefully undulates his arms, only to break off to get the smoke machine before gauchely collapsing on the floor in the iconic pose of the dying bird.
Irony walks hand in hand with the tragic. This is not just a clever exposure of the prosaic tools that produce otherworldly illusion. When Pavlova died, a spotlight traced the path on the empty stage where the swan would have danced. Hansen also ends with a light beam moving - not, however, focused enough to give us a glimpse of recreated magic in the midst of all the myth busting.
Martin Hansen deconstructs the iconic 'Dying Swan' from prima ballerina Anna Pavlova. Is this a 'Monumental' task? Hansen wields a scalpel of irony to dissect, and layers the production to mutate its myth.
Dressed in mauve grey (hair included), he is cool and android-neutral. A futuristic-looking boy lost in dreams of reinvention.
Three narrators –Hansen himself in clipped tones, and two female voiceovers– give poetic account of Pavlova's own demise (on her death bed she said "Prepare my swan costume"), and an intellectual analysis highlighting the dance's 'martyred paradigm of fate'.
Hansen moves with liquid fluidity: mixing pacing, soft popping and urgent reaching amidst several balletic swan iterations. He is sensual yet caustic, coldly conducting the props: a smoke machine, searchlight, and four sparse signs for abstract emphasis: DARKNESS, MONUMENTAL, PRECIPICE and SPOTLIGHT.
This is a clinical quest into the nuanced mysteries of death and classicism, but the landing unclear. I am absorbed by the experience but left confounded, with not much to take home.