Swan Lake’s stars: Robert Curran

27 February 2015 | By admin

In this series of five interviews, Jane Albert looks at the dancers who have made legendary reputations in the lead roles of Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake. Today we speak to Robert Curran, former principal artist and now artistic director of Louisville Ballet.

What was your first impression of this production of Swan Lake?
One of awe. I was so impressed by the way Graeme, Janet and designer Kristian Fredrikson had re-imagined the story with so much integrity. I could feel something while they were explaining the process that had led to the scenario, and it was the first time I’d experienced that.

How did you interpret the conflicted Prince?
To be honest I struggled with the character initially. It wasn’t until I researched some of the pressures that exist for royalty, then transferred some of those ideas onto the character that I realised he knew he was doing something wrong but he so desperately needed to do it. I also looked into the ego that seems inherent in royalty and celebrity and how that must play a part in what we see as bad behaviour.

Madeleine Eastoe and Robert Curran. Photography Jim McFarlane

He’s a complex character, is that hard to convey?
Yes. The scenario I used was one of an overbearing, judgmental and unloving mother who left some kind of deficit in the Prince’s life, including a longing for a powerful woman who could provide an escape from responsibility. It also included a tender side that recognised the virtues of Odette, and did actually love her, but not enough until it was too late. That is where the tragedy lay for me, and that is how I was able to feel something onstage by the end of the ballet.

Is Graeme’s choreography as demanding as people say?
Graeme’s choreography is VERY demanding. Especially in this production where there are about 13 pas de deux! The steps themselves are challenging, and sometimes awkward, but that wasn’t really the most difficult thing. It was the amount of intention and emotion that Graeme and Janet look for in the execution of the choreography that made it so demanding. I don’t think I ever really achieved my best in this, I committed every cell of my body to the ballet but there is always more …

Madeleine Eastoe and Robert Curran. Photography Jim McFarlane

Is there a particular highlight or performance that has stayed with you?
In the bigger picture, a highlight would be dancing the premiere at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, the same stage that Nijinsky danced on. It was unbelievable pressure, I really wanted to represent the company well and push my personal artistic limits. In the smaller picture, there are too many moments to name: working with all the beautiful ballerinas I was able to work with, the fantastic coaching I got from Graeme and Janet and David, and the many moments sitting in my dressing room, before and after, assessing and reassessing my plans and my efforts.

You’re an artistic director yourself now – can you see why this Swan Lake is such an enduring favourite?
A re-contextualising of a traditional story, that is truly meaningful, that has integrity in the art and artistry and that stirs you to feel something as a dancer and as an audience member is a rare gift. It is hard to define, and almost impossible to reproduce consistently. But when it occurs, I imagine it would be the ultimate gratification for the artistic director who had the vision to commission the work. I have the utmost respect for David McAllister’s initiative in commissioning Graeme’s Swan Lake.