‘The Sweet Pain of Life’ - Dancing Metaphysical Longing: A Theological Reading of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

Clive Palmer, David Torevell


The performing arts offer opportunities for the creative representation of spiritual and moral values and serve an important function in contemporary culture. Dance, and in particular ballet, has the potential through its somatic dynamics centred around graceful movement and stylised gesture, to offer an alluring spectacle of beauty and value to any audience. What we offer in this article is a philosophical, theological and spiritual reading of Matthew Bourne’s 2018 production of Swan Lake. The dance revolves around the longing of one male swan for another and the obstacles they encounter due to their desire. We argue that this work is important, not because of its homoerotic appeal, but because it offers a portrayal of universal, spiritual longing as an analogue to, and constituent of, sexual erotic yearning. Since this religious and transcendent approach to sexual love is found in Platonic, Biblical and other theological sources, we interpret the dance through these philosophical and religious lenses, but freely admit that it takes a certain purifying of the eye of the soul (as ascetics have suggested throughout the ages) to interpret the dance in this manner.

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.11114/ijsss.v8i2.4722


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Paper Submission E-mail: ijsss@redfame.com

International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

Copyright © Redfame Publishing Inc.

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the 'redfame.com' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders. If you have any questions, please contact: ijsss@redfame.com