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'Not your parents' Swan Lake': Carolina Performing Arts hosts Loch na hEala


"Loch na hEala" is coming to Memorial Hall Nov. 20 and 21 of 2019. Photo courtesy of Marie Laure Briane. 

Carolina Performing Arts is bringing “Loch na hEala,” a critically acclaimed reimagining of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” to Memorial Hall on Nov. 20 and 21.

The show premiered in Dublin in 2016 and has been performed around the world, including in London and New York.

Written, directed and choreographed by Michael Keegan-Dolan, the founder of Irish dance company Teaċ Daṁsa, “Loch na hEala” is a piece of dance theater, not a ballet. 

The production is rooted in the intersection of folklore and the modern world, a mixture that can be seen in its choreography and heard in its music. A new score by Irish band Slow Moving Clouds combines traditional Nordic and Irish music with experimental and minimalist influences.

The modern influences are also apparent in the show’s narrative, as the show deals with current sociocultural issues, said Amanda Graham, CPA’s associate director of engagement.

“One of the characters is dealing with depression and issues in his family,” Graham said. “Another character is dealing with sexual trauma. These characters kind of come together in the midst of this dark space and create their own fantastical journey. There are characters loosely playing swans, but this is not your parents' ‘Swan Lake.’”

Jess Abel, CPA’s marketing and communications coordinator, said the show fulfills CPA’s goal of hosting challenging works that leave audiences thinking about the performance long after it’s over.

“I would just hope that people that see this would be unafraid to ask themselves and their friends or family that they've seen it with about whatever strikes them about it,” Abel said.

For those who are interested in having a discussion after the show, CPA and Durham Independent Dance Artists (DIDA) are hosting a post-performance gathering at the Carolina Inn following the Nov. 20 performance.

Graham said CPA and DIDA both want to give audiences a way to think and talk critically about dance.

“It made sense to come together since we have similar missions and we're both invested in the dance community, so that folks in Durham and the whole Triangle who are invested in more avant-garde and experimental dance could have conversations about it so they can process it and reflect," Graham said. "They can build a sense of community around the dance — not just as audience members, but as people."

DIDA co-founder and co-organizer Justin Tornow said CPA is covering attendees’ first drink, which gives the event a cocktail party-like feeling.

“We can all just grab a drink and begin to have low-key, informal conversations,” Tornow said. “So, instead of there being one major conversation being facilitated, we all just kind of move around from conversation to conversation. It's a welcoming environment with this deeper, more performance-engaged conversation rather than leading one general conversation.”

Tornow said she is looking forward to seeing how Keegan-Dolan has reimagined such a seminal work.

“Something like ‘Swan Lake’ allows us to think in particular frames around codified technique and the romance and this journey of ballet,” Tornow said. “So, taking it outside of that framework and introducing different aesthetics and potentially through this deeper exploration, maybe less perfect and less neatly tied up with a bow.”


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