Yinka Shonibare b. 1962
Odile and Odette (2005)
High-definition digital video (color, sound, 14 min. 28 sec.)
Shonibare's film Odile and Odette is inspired by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 19th-century ballet Swan Lake, in which the princess Odette is cursed by an evil sorcerer, Rothbart, to live as a swan by day and a woman by night. Rothbart then disguises his own daughter Odile to resemble Odette, except that she wears black instead of white, an impersonation that leads to tragedy. In the ballet, the roles of Odile and Odette are traditionally performed by one ballerina with two costumes.
Shonibare's interpretation extends the theme of blackness and whiteness in his juxtaposition of the two dancers and calls into question the Western binary opposition in which negative or "dark" forces are polarized against positive, "light" ones.
Odile and Odette, Shonibare's second film work to date, was commissioned by London's Royal Opera and Ballet. The artist has noted, with some irony, that his film features one ballerina drawn from the Royal Ballet (the white dancer) and an independent dancer sourced by the company because it did not have a black ballerina in its corps.