Shadows in the Shape of Swan Lake

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Juliana DeBellis


Swan Lake, with its rich history of productions and iconic place in culture, is easily one of the most famous ballets of all time. Each new reimagination of the popular story situates itself uniquely as a form of artistic commentary and reflection of the time and space in which it was created. Taking into consideration the historical context of the ballet as well as creative choices made in previous adaptations, I have choreographed and produced a short film adaptation of Swan Lake through the lens of authoritative censorship. The story of Swan Lake is inherently about freedom: Odette is trapped by both Rothbart’s curse and then later Siegfried’s betrayal of their love. My film follows Odette as she navigates a morally gray world in search of truth.  She encounters the Swans, a censored version of the people she knows, as well as their puppeteer, a stranger who alternates between the roles of Siegfried and Rothbart. After being tossed about this ambiguous space, Odette eventually finds reality and truth, but not without serious repercussions. With this film, I speak to the voicelessness that artists and citizens experience during times of suppression of information and speech. Furthermore, this film asks the audience: who gets their voice heard in modern media, and how is that voice and its accompanying statements interpreted and used over time?

Comments from Mentors

It was my good fortune and pleasure to work with Juliana, not only on her Honors project, but indeed right throughout her four years here at TCU.  Her talent, creativity, passion, commitment, intelligence, kindness, and good cheer were clearly in evidence from her first day on campus, and only grew in measure during her time here.

— Keith Saunders

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College of Fine Arts