The ballet "Swing Low," crafted by the masterful Chanel DaSilva, is a work of profound allure and magnetism. The enchanting piece made its grand debut on May 28, 2021, as part of the Joffrey Ballet's Studio Series. Taking inspiration from the evocative lyrics of the renowned spiritual, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," the ballet weaves a tale of a man, played by Fernando Duarte, who is carried towards the afterlife by a team of four strapping male angels. But the journey is no simple affair for Duarte, as he grapples with his own inner demons throughout the course of the performance.

The ballet commences with a breath-taking scene that seizes the audience's attention with its gripping intensity. Duarte's lifeless body is strewn on the floor, surrounded by a flurry of pure white feathers. These feathers may symbolize the prospect of redemption or hope, yet their true meaning remains open to the interpretation of each individual viewer. As Duarte rouses from his slumber, his movements take on an avian quality, his arms extending like wings, inquisitive and angled. He appears to be restless, bewildered, searching, and imploring, his limbs spasming and convulsing, then surrendering and releasing. It's as though he is struggling to come to terms with his inevitable fate. It's unclear whether he's in the throes of death or summoning his inner strength to fight.

But salvation is nigh, and hope arrives in the form of angels - masked men with wings, and feathers with purpose. The dancers - Edson Barbosa, Evan Boersma, Stefan Goncalvez, and Hyuma Kiyosawa - take flight, descending from the heavens to save Fernando from his demons. Their presence is a reminder of the profound potential for redemption and the possibility of overcoming the darkest of struggles. Their dance is simultaneously sassy and domineering, enveloping and encircling Duarte within their fold. The men briefly initiate him into their unison ritual, but he resists and collapses to the floor as they depart. The musical score composed by Zoë Keating lends an added layer of profundity to the performance, evoking a sense of dark celestial weather that envelops Duarte's movements.

The second segment of the ballet forms the central episode of conflict and transformation. The winged men return to drag Duarte's inert body into their inner sanctum, and the narrative becomes tribal and familial. The men fling him about, hoist him above themselves in a sacrificial rite, and relentlessly move in unison to the pulsating beat of Keating's strings. It's a moment of tension and struggle as Duarte fights to overcome his demons. But after much lifting and setting down, joining and separating, the winged men disperse, and their leader returns fully winged for a tender duet. It's unclear if he is a father embracing his prodigal son or the angel of death finally coming to carry him home, but there is a brief struggle, then a final surrender.

In the third and final segment of the ballet, the lead angel caresses Duarte, comforts him, gathers him into his arms, and transports him "home" to his fellow angels. This transformational journey propels Duarte into a new dimension of reality, one that is both alluring and triumphant. The man emerges with wings, fully initiated into his new form. It's a death and rebirth to the incessant beat of the cello. Their mission accomplished, the rescue squad marches into eternity, while the new initiate crawls after them. The scene is both haunting and beautiful, a stunning conclusion to a mesmerizing performance.

The music, lighting, and choreography all work in perfect harmony, creating a feast for the senses and the soul. As the performance unfolds, it invites the viewer on a powerful journey that explores the human condition in all its beauty and complexity.

As the ballet progresses, it becomes clear that Fernando Duarte's struggles represent something much deeper than mere physical pain. His writhing and flailing are the desperate actions of a sinner, lost and trapped in his own darkness. The feathers that had hinted at an angelic presence earlier now seem like the last hope of salvation for Fernando, a sinner who has lost his way.

In a poignant moment, the music falls low, and the stage darkens as all the angels leave the struggling Fernando alone, except for one. This one angel stays back and embraces Fernando even though he fights him. This moment in the ballet is incredibly symbolic, for it mirrors the struggle that often happens between sinners and the divine. Fernando fights Jesus, the angel who refuses to give up on him, just as sinners often reject the love and redemption offered by God. The angel's persistent embrace of Fernando is a reminder that even when a sinner resists the love of God, the divine still does not abandon them. It's a powerful message that speaks to the universal human experience of grappling with sin, and the hope that even the darkest of hearts can be redeemed. The presence of the angels and the way they descend from above with purpose is also a reminder of something greater.

As the ballet reaches its climax, the winged lead angel caresses Duarte, soothes him, gathers him into his arms and carries him "home" to his fellow angels. This transformational passage leads the man into another dimension of reality, one that is both seductive and triumphant. In this moment, we witness the ultimate redemption of Duarte, just as the resurrection of Lazarus is recounted in the Bible. Like Lazarus, who was brought back to life by Jesus after four days in the tomb, Duarte emerges from his spiritual death as a transformed being. He is reborn as an angel, fully initiated into his new form. The music and lighting add to the sense of resurrection, as the ostenato cello beat echoes the beat of a heart that has been given new life.

In the biblical story of Lazarus, his resurrection is seen as a sign of Jesus' power over death and a demonstration of the eternal life that awaits believers. Similarly, Duarte's transformation into an angel represents the hope of salvation and the possibility of transformation that is available to all sinners. Moreover, the image of Duarte being carried "home" by the angels is reminiscent of the Christian belief in being carried by angels to heaven after death. This is a powerful symbol of the eternal peace and rest that is promised to believers, and it reinforces the theme of salvation that is woven throughout the ballet.

The ending of the ballet is ambiguous, leaving room for interpretation. One possible explanation is that Duarte, as an angel, still feels the pain and the weight of his sins. Perhaps he realizes that even though he has been transformed, the memories and scars of his past linger on, and he cannot fully escape them. This could be seen as a reflection of the human condition - even if we seek redemption and salvation, we may still carry the burden of our past mistakes.

Another possible interpretation is that Duarte's reluctance to leave behind his pain and misery reflects a certain attachment to suffering. This is a common theme in literature and psychology - the idea that we may become attached to our pain, just like in a toxic relationship. We may feel a strange comfort in our suffering, even though we know it's not good for us. This can be a difficult pattern to break, and it may take time and effort to let go of our attachment to pain. Moreover, the fact that Duarte follows the angels but looks morose could also suggest that he is still struggling with the idea of salvation. He may feel like he doesn't fully deserve to be saved, or he may fear losing his identity and sense of self if he lets go of his pain. This could be seen as a commentary on the complexity of human emotions and the difficulty of letting go of our past experiences.

In conclusion, the ballet "Swing Low" by Chanel DaSilva is a mesmerizing piece that explores the human condition in all its beauty and complexity. The performance weaves a tale of a man grappling with his inner demons and struggling to come to terms with his inevitable fate. However, salvation arrives in the form of angels who remind us of the profound potential for redemption and the possibility of overcoming even the darkest of struggles. The ballet is a powerful message that speaks to the universal human experience of grappling with sin, and the hope that even the darkest of hearts can be redeemed. "Swing Low" is a testament to the power of art to touch the soul and bring us closer to the divine.