A much-appreciated art during the 19th
century, the aim of mime was, quite simply, to tell a story through gestures
and was often used in action ballets to move the story along. Today regarded as
somewhat outdated, it nevertheless remains a discipline with a codified
language which is difficult to master. In Swan
Lake, Rudolf Nureyev
chose to retain the mime scene in Act II and originally created by Marius
Petipa. It is the crucial point at which Odette encounters the Prince for the
first time and tells him about her curse. The ballet is temporarily suspended
to allow for a few moments of narration and mime. Hannah
O’Neill, Première Danseuse of Paris Opera, and Ballet
teacher Jean-Guillaume Bart examine this mime for us.
Midway between a dance pose and a natural position, it must be neither
mechanical nor caricatured, but rather, a silent declamation.
Follow the dissection of Mime in Swan Lake (diaporama)
The Prince asks Odette who she is. When the mime begins, the two dancers share the stage. The centre is empty.