When Boris the ballet dancing bear performs 'Swan Lake' for them, Nanny Piggins reveals the true story behind the ballet - how it isn't really about swans at all.Support the show
“Swine Lake” as told by Nanny Piggins.
Here we go…
Boris, the ballet dancing bear, was out in the backyard performing his signature role, Odette from Swan Lake much to the delight of Nanny Piggins and the children.
You see, Boris been cleaning out his shed (well, he had been searching for honey sandwich that had fallen down the back of his bed, in his shed) when he had come across his old ballet dancing tutu from when he had been the lead dancer at the Russian Ballet.
He was extra especially pleased to discover that it still fit him. Admittedly he only fit into it with the help of Nanny Piggins and children. But between the five of them it only took forty minutes of tugging and squeezing, and levering with a long handled shovel.
Now - you may be wondering why Boris played Odette - the lead girl part in the ballet - when he was a boy, and a bear, and ten-foot-tall, and covered in fur.
But you see - Boris was so good at ballet, that the lead male character, Seigfried was considered to be too boring for a dancer of his talent.
When Boris danced - he was so convincing as a swan if you fetched an actual swan from the lake at the park you’d struggle to tell them apart.
Now that Boris had the tutu on, it seemed a shame to take it off again straight away. Nanny Piggins and the children needed a rest before they tried anyway. Getting him into the tutu had been an exhausting cardio-vascular workout.
So Boris offered to perform the famous ballet for them. The performance had commenced in the dining room, but they’ soon taken it outside because Boris Grand jete’s and pirouettes were so spectacular that he had taken out the light fitting and several antique vases.
The whole ballet took two hours, including an interval for a cake break, and the children thought it was wonderful. They clapped enthusiastically, and threw all the roses from Miss Smiths’ garden at him. Because throwing thorny flowers at a dancer is how you say ‘congratulations’ in ballet.
‘That was so beautiful,’ said Samantha, dabbing a tear from her eye. ‘But the ending was so sad.’
‘That Rothbart was such a rotter,’ said Derrick.
‘Is it based on a true story?’ asked Michael.
‘Oh gosh no,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘The whole thing is a pack of outrageous falsehoods.’
‘It is?’ asked Derrick.
‘Oh yes,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘The story of what happened at that Russian Lake all those years ago, was nothing like that.’
‘So someone just made it up?’ asked Michael.
‘All ballet’s are just made up,’ confessed Boris. ‘The nutcracker doesn’t really crack nuts. It’s just a man in tights.
‘So what is the real story of Swan Lake?’ asked Michael, suspecting that if Nanny Piggins told it, it would be a very good story indeed.
‘Well for a start,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘It had nothing to do with swans.’
‘Swan Lake wasn’t about swans?’ asked Samantha.
‘Of course not,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘What prince would fall in love with a swan? Swans are alright I suppose if you like long necks. But they aren’t exactly sparkling dinner party conversationalists.'
The children had never been to a dinner party attended by a swan or indeed any bird, so they could not contradict their nanny.
‘No, the true story of Swan Lake was about a pig,’ declared Nanny Piggins. ‘It should really be called Swine Lake. But ballet goesr are such snobs, they thought that wouldn’t have the same ring to it on the poster.’
‘Is that true?’ asked Derrick.
‘Oh, yes, 100% true,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘I know it for a fact because Odette, the lead character of the story was in fact my great great great great great great aunt. Her name was Odette Piggins.’
‘Wow!’ said Michael.
‘If only Tschikovsky had stuck to the original story,’ said Boris, dabbing a tear from his eye. ‘It would have been an even greater ballet.’
‘It’s probably for the best he didn’t then,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘If it had been the truth, with a pig in the lead roll the ballet would have been so good it would have been dangerous. People would never want to do any else besides watch this ballet and no one would ever get anything done.’
‘True, very true,’ nodded Boris. He knew too well the power of the dance.
‘So how does the real story go?’ asked Derrick.
‘The beginning is right enough,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘There was a drippy Prince Seigfried and his mother was fed up with him lounging around the house all day. She said he had to get married. And that she had organised a great big ball, and at that ball he had to pick a wife.
But the problem was, Siegfried didn’t have a very good attention span. And as his mother was talking, you know – going through a list of all the qualities he should be looking for in a wife – shiny hair, white teeth, wicked dance moves, that sort of thing – he looked out the window and saw a drove of pigs jog past.
‘There were pigs jogging?’ asked Michael. He knew his nanny did not approve of jogging or any form of organised sport or exercise that involved sweating.
‘Oh yes,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘It was alright though, they were jogging to get to the chocolate shop before it closed. Not jogging for exercise. They were pigs after all, so they had principals.’
The Prince totally forgot about getting married, grabbed his gun and hurried out after the pigs.
‘He was going to shoot them?’ asked Samantha.
‘I know it seems a strange thing to do,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘But this was the olden Russian story days, and he was a royal prince, breaking off mid conversation with your mother to go and shoot things was just the type of thing princes did back then.
He followed the pigs to the chocolate shop. The pigs didn’t stay there long, just enough time to ransack the whole place and throw all their money at the shop keeper, then they ran down to the lake.
Because if you’re going to gorge yourself on high fat, high sugar foods it’s always lovely to do it at a waterside location.
The prince crept through the trees and saw the pigs on the lake side, he lifted his rifle and took aim… But as he looked at my great great great great great great aunt Odette through the site of his gun, he fell instantly in love!
‘The way she took her block of chocolate, ripped off the wrapper and shoved the entire thing in her mouth at once was the most beautiful thing he ever seen.’
‘Really?’ asked Derrick.
‘Oh yes,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘The way she ate chocolate was poetry in motion. It was better than poetry in fact because no one really likes poetry, especially if it doesn’t rhyme and is all about drippy feelings. If you want to see true burning artistic passion – then just watch a pig eat a chocolate bar. You’ll never see such raw emotion on display.
Anyway, you’re making me get off the point of the story. The point is – he fell in love. And no, Michael, he did not actually fall.
Michael had just drawn breath, and she had accurately anticipated this question. Michael had always had the unfortunate mental association between falling in love, and falling off a cliff.
Odette was naturally terrified at first. He was a gun wielding prince, delirious with love. It was totally distracting her from eating her chocolate. But as soon as she finished, she sat patiently and listening to him as he swore his undying devotion.
‘Odette was a Piggins so she was very practically minded,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘She told the prince straight away, that no they couldn’t get married because they had just met and that was ridiculous. Also she was cursed.’
‘Cursed?!’ exclaimed Samantha.
‘Yes,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Heroines in folk tales are always cursed. It’s very tiresome. But if you are going to be the lead character in a folk tale you just have to put up with it.’
‘What was the curse?’ asked Michael.
‘A wicked scorcerer, called Rothbart,’ explained Nanny Piggins. ‘Had cursed her so that she had to eat 3 times her body weight in chocolate every single day, otherwise, she would transform into a human princess.’
‘That’s not much of a curse,’ said Samantha.
‘No,’ agreed Nanny Piggins. ‘Because she really enjoyed eating chocolate. Some days she ate four or five times her body weight just for fun.’
‘No, I mean, it wouldn’t be so bad turning into a princess,’ said Samantha.
Nanny Piggins patted Samantha on the hand kindly, ‘It’s sweet that you think that. We won’t get into an argument about it now. Suffice it to say, you’re entirely wrong.’
‘But there was a way of getting out of the curse,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘The curse would be lifted if Odette could get a handsome prince to swear his undying love for her.’
Seigfried got all excited about this. ‘But I’m a handsome prince and I declare my undying love for you.’
Odette looked at him skeptically. True he had deep blue eyes, golden blond hair, a chiselled chin and rippling muscles. But he had no snout at all and his ears were tiny and round. But she supposed he was probably ‘beautiful on the inside’ so that would have to do.
‘Very well, conceded Odette. ‘I’ll let you declare your undying love for me and marry me and what not, but we’d better have a trial run first to see if you’re up to the job. Meet me back here tomorrow at this exact same time. If you’re still in love with me, then I will agree to it all and marry you and be queen of your kingdom and all that other stuff
Prince Seigfried was over joyed. He rushed back to the palace to tell his Mum. But he’d forgotten about the ball. It was such a drag, but he had to go through with it. If he was marrying a pig tomorrow, it was probably a good idea to get on his mum’s good side first.
Seigfried was so in love with Odette the last thing he wanted to do was dance with another girl. But his mother had invited dozens of them and she was getting really cross with him and insisted he had to pick one out.
Seigfried begrudgingly looked about and that was when he spotten her.
‘Odette was at the ball?’ asked Derrick.
‘That’s what he thought,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘She looked exactly like Odette, she was a staggeringly achingly beautiful pig. But what he didn’t realise was that the wicked scorcer Rothbart had magicked his own daughter to look like Odette so she could win the heart of the prince.
‘Was she ugly in real life?’ asked Michael.
‘I wouldn’t go that far,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘But she was a human, so not in the same league.’
Prince Sigfried danced with this fake Odette all night, because this is a ballet story so they always want to squeeze lots of dancing into the plot. Then at the strike of midnight he declared that this was the girl he would marry.
‘What a rotter,’ said Boris.
He had personally danced the story several hundred times, but he still got angry when it got to this point in the tale.
Meanwhile,’ said Nanny Piggins. Odette had heard the noise from the party and come to have a look, in case there was any chocolate on the buffet table.
She looked in through the window and saw Seigfriend declare his love for doppleganger and was outraged. She banged on the window and yelled, ‘Oi you, what do you think you’re doing? You just declared your undying love for me a couple of hours ago!’
Seigfriend was beside himself. It’s a really embarrassing look when you declare undying love for someone, then confuse them with someone else at your party.
He realised he had just stuffed up his relationship with the most beautiful creature he had ever seen.
‘I’m so sorry,’ he pleaded. ‘I take it all back. You’re my true love really.’
‘That’s not how curses work you ninny,’ said Odette. ‘It had to be undying love. Undying! That means forever. You can’t just turn it off for half an hour at a party because you meet someone who looks the same.’
‘Whoops, sorry,’ said Seigfried.
‘Eurgh,’ said Odette, ‘Now I will be transformed into a human. Thanks a lot.’
‘Oh, my love,’ he declared. ‘If we cannot be together. Let us never be apart. Let’s jump into this lake right now.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ snapped Odette. ‘This is Russian. That lake will be freezing. Unplanned swimming is no way to resolve relationship disputes.
She stomped hard on his foot, picked him up and threw him in the lake. Then she did the same to Rothbart. Then she did it to Rothbarts daughter too for good measure. And from that day to this, all Russian pigs have been very wary of marrying in to the Russian royal family. The end time for bed.