Picture this: Bare chested men moving with powerful grace, leaping effortlessly in the air, then landing ever so elegantly. Rippling muscles, taut with the energy of flight, six packs glistening with perspiration under the spots. It was a gay man’s wet dream. And unabashedly so since it has been dubbed the Gay Swan Lake.
Two nights ago, I watched Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake. I have always loved Tchaikovsky, whether it be the drama of his 1812 Overture and his Piano Concerto Number 1 in B-Flat Minor, the lilting melody of his Serenade for Strings or his playful The Nutcracker Suite and of course the beautiful Swan Lake.
I’d watched the Swan Lake ballet with the original presentation of having female swans many years ago…was it when Bolshoi* came to Singapore? It was grace, elegance and beauty. But this time it was different. Would there be homoerotism on stage between man and male swan? Bourne in interviews wanted the audience to just focus on the beauty of dance especially highlighting the art form that usually emphasizes female dancers with the male dancers often carrying the ballerinas in flight. Okay, so he did change the love story into something of a psychological drama – the Prince went bonkers. But did he go bonkers because he was grappling with his sexuality or what? It was definitely and truly a totally plausible interpretation especially if you are a gay man watching it, so says one of my friends watching it with me.
All that didn’t really jump out at me when I was watching. To me it was an old issue, just a new way of expression.
What jumped out at me was what I saw as an October-April relationship between the 2 leads. The Swan was played by an older and presumably more senior dancer while the young Prince looked young and boyish. The Swan was bigger in size – taller and larger physically compared to the smaller sized Prince.
But what intrigued me most was how the Swan, who appeared first suspicious of the royal stranger who had wandered into his territory, developed a relationship with the intruder. The relationship progressed and developed into protector-and-protected, finally with the Swan sacrificing his life to protect the Prince against the attack of the other hissing menacing swans who rejected their forbidden love for each other.
So what’s so attractive about an October-April romance?
To the younger man, I believe having someone who looks after you is a wonderful feeling. It is wonderful to have someone pamper and love you, take care of you and shower his attention on you. The sense of being the object of love and protection can be an exhilarating experience.
On the other hand, for the older man, besides the youth and beauty of the younger man, what would draw him to such a romance? Well, to some of them, it can be a wonderful feeling to look after a younger man. It is not something for everyone because many of my gay friends have told me that they don’t want to play daddy. But there are others who just love the feeling.
Watching Bourne’s Swan Lake, the pas de deux** between the Swan and the Prince, the longing looks in their eyes – tender, passionate, yearning, submissive, the twirling and turning as each supports the other in strong powerful embrace, brings a soulful celebration of the October-April romance.
In the gay world, such pairings are really quite common though hopefully not quite so tragic as Swan Lake. I have come across at least 2 of such October-April couplings.
The first case is a man in his 40s. I knew him some 15 years earlier but lost touch with him. Somehow our paths crossed and we met for lunch at Marche one afternoon. He came out to me over the meal and told me that he was in a relationship with a much younger man in his early 20s. R shared with me about how he wanted to financially support his boyfriend for further studies so that he can get a better job. I could sense a tender loving tone in his voice as he shared his story with me. I didn’t meet him again. A year later, R passed away from an illness and when I went to pay my respects, I couldn’t help wondering what would become of his young friend.
The second case is a good friend also in his 40s who had been putting his boyfriend through university. It was a tumultuous relationship because I could sense the pain each time they quarreled. According to my friend L, it was over demands by the younger man who sounded like he needed lots of attention and pampering. They broke up. I’m glad that both have moved on.
There are quite a few others whom I know to be in such a relationship but age didn’t seem to figure enough as an issue for them to talk about it with me.
So back to Bourne’s Swan Lake. Love it or hate it….really it depends on the individual. Me? I’ve always been a sucker for melodrama, tragic love and well….lots of naked skin too.
* Boishoi – a renowned Russian classical ballet company
**pas de deux – a dance duet between 2 dancers in ballet
Watch on Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChOnhxe-Vm0 (The pas de deux between Swan and Prince is from 3.05 onwards.