If I said that there is one form of entertainment that I really, truly love, but that most people find weird or unusual, what would you think of?
As this blog features one big Evangelion fanart as its header and I have published a couple of articles about No.6, a confident guess would be anime. And yes, even if it is much more widespread than a few years ago, anime is still not a perfectly ‘usual’ pastime. But when I say that I actively enjoy and go see ballet, I still get a few weird looks. Now, pair ballet AND anime and you’ll be sure to get stares, not just weird looks.
What is that we enjoy about anime, though? The same thing that we enjoy about stories. Humanity is addicted to stories: it has craved and crafted complex mythologies and narratives since the very beginning of its history and I am pretty confident that we cannot live without stories, because we are meaning-making and meaning-finding creatures. And of all the incredible ways in which a story can be conveyed, ballet just chooses to do it through music and dance.
How mute communication can be this powerful will never cease to amaze and inspire me, but that’s the true magic of ballet. Silent words that work with the music to tell emotional stories, but also incredibly old stories. Ballet is crystallized storytelling: its beauty lies in its being ancient and distant.
Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake… all of them are old fairy-tales that somehow keep being told through dance over and over again. When you go see ballet, you get dragged into a different and distant world and I have always believed that this was one of ballet’s virtues. And yet, one day I discovered that choreographers were trying to breathe new life into ballet’s magic and use its power to tell modern stories, not just crystallized myths, and the result was more powerful and enchanting than ever. I fell in love with ballet all over again.
Matthew Bourne is one of these choreographers and he re-created ballet’s most famous piece, Swan Lake, adding the realism I never thought Swan Lake needed. At the same time, he involuntarily created what I now call my ‘guilty pleasure’ AU, because I’ll never be brave or good enough to write it, but can’t stop to think about it either. And here’s where Evangelion comes into play.
So, what do Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake and Neon Genesis Evangelion have in common? Surprisingly, pretty much everything from an emotional and narrative point of view, even though Evangelion is evidently lacking in swans, just like Swan Lake lacks in giant humanoid robots. Yet, I’m sure the plot will sound familiar.
Here’s how it goes: a young man, with an absent and uncaring parent, falls deep into self-hate as a result of emotional trauma and abandonment, so he tries to engage with the world and find things to love but is ultimately let down and abandoned again. Contemplating suicide, he finally meets someone special, he’s intrigued and enchanted by him, he loves him, but he has to look at him suddenly and gruesomely die right before his eyes, because of him, and he spirals deep into depression again.
A few differences I could point out: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake‘s protagonist is a prince, Shinji isn’t; the uncaring parent is the mother, not the father; the person the boys are intrigued by is, respectively, a male swan and an angel. The Swan also has a doppelganger called The Stranger, just like there is a white and a black swan in the original Swan Lake, while Kaworu is just Kaworu, even though the fandom differentiates among Kaworu, Qworu and Manga Kaworu (or Karl). But that’s about it.
Add Tchaikovsky‘s original music, new and powerful choreographies, eerie sceneries and loads of emotional trauma, unequally distributed among the cast. Add also the fact that I saw it for the first time right after watching Evangelion: the parallelisms were hard to ignore, they stuck with me ever since.
And it’s weird, even as I write this I realize how weird this sounds, how anime and ballet are just two completely different worlds and two completely different and equally unusual niches to be a part of, but what can I say: I can’t unsee the connections now.
I tried again and again to communicate this on paper, even to write Eva stories in Swan Lake‘s universe just to let more people know about this connection, about the masterpiece that is Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, about ballet and about the different, amazing ways through which you can tell powerful stories. It never came out as I wanted it to be. There is a reason why ballet is mute storytelling, it just can’t be communicated another way without losing part of its power and emotion. The best part, in my opinion.
So, as I have no other way to communicate dance moves, connections or music on paper, I just share this article with you; it’s my best attempt so far.
What about you: do you have two completely unrelated passions that can somehow interact? Do you have special or guilty pleasure AUs? Let me know in the comments.
(well, I had to link the ballet somehow, didn’t I?)