The swan glides to the centre of the stage.A cello solo swells in synch with her attempts to take flight; she struggles against an invisible bind to earth. Trying, trying to fly. She moves to the music and as the music calms she replaces her expansive movements with deliberate steps. The sways of her arms begin to slow, she trembles. And now it is clear that these are her final moments.
Exploring the expiration of life, the piece rejected the strict technical formula followed by most ballet choreographers, and instead called for complete emotional abandon by its lead. Prima ballerina Anna Pavlova first performed the dance in St. Petersburg more than a century ago. In 2012 Kitty Phetla became the first black dancer to perform The Dying Swan in Russia.
Notorious for being a profession that favours the petite of frame and pale of complexion, Phetla is an anomaly in the ballet world. One of the most recognisable names in South African ballet, she is tall, athletic, and her beauty is arresting. With a mile-long smile, she laughs off the notion that people may be surprised that a woman with her physicality could be a ballerina.