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Matthew Bourne’s male-swan version of “Swan Lake” is finally coming to San Francisco. I talked to Bourne for the Chronicle:

“It’s played Paris and Tokyo and kept London audiences queuing around the block. It’s been a smash hit on Broadway and in Los Angeles and left an impression on millions of viewers who loved the film “Billy Elliot.” And yet Matthew Bourne’s “Swan Lake” — the famous version featuring powerful, bare-chested men instead of the usual flock of ballerinas en pointe — has never been performed in the Bay Area. In fact, surprisingly little of Bourne’s work has.

“That’s going to change, I hope,” the 46-year-old British choreographer and director says as he settles into an armchair at the Clift Hotel, parting the drapes to view a city he has rarely had occasion to visit. “I’ve always felt ‘Swan Lake’ would do well here. Sometimes people say, ‘Please, why don’t you come’ to someplace or other and you think, ‘Er’ … but I’m so glad we’re coming to San Francisco now because I feel it’s the right place for the work.”

“Now” is a decade after “Swan Lake’s” wildly received premiere, on an international tour. Why such a long wait for the most popular work by Britain’s most popular contemporary choreographer? Strangely, Bourne’s oeuvre has never gained a foothold in the Bay Area. In 2001, Cal Performances brought “The Car Man,” his noir twist on the Bizet opera, to UC Berkeley, to a warm reception, but when Bourne’s “Nutcracker!” came in 2004, ticket sales tanked. So Cal Performances canceled its 2005 presentation of Bourne’s breakthrough “Play Without Words” — and yet again Los Angeles fans lauded a Bourne production while San Franciscans missed out.

“Swan Lake” should reverse that trend. Set in a modern-day England where the Queen keeps Corgis and the Prince takes to a vulgar girl who bears more than a passing resemblance to Sarah Ferguson, “Swan Lake” brought Bourne huge audiences and fame in 1995 and became a contemporary classic. Dozens of choreographers have tinkered with the story, but none have created an image as widely resonant as Bourne’s menacing winged men pecking mercilessly at an aristocrat who yearns for freedom.

“It’s proved to be a great trailblazer for our work,” Bourne says. “It constantly amazes me, the audience reaction. Always we get this roar — we call it ‘the “Swan Lake” roar’ — at the end of the show. It’s an incredible thing that happens, and it doesn’t matter who’s playing the lead, what bobbles we had, anything. It always gets that reaction.” ”

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