BTS’ ‘Black Swan: I See Myself

Bangtan Beat is an ongoing series in which I attempt to articulate BTS’ poetic impact within my life, connect with fellow ARMY, and throw out observations relating to BTS as healing humans.

Art speaks where the words are unable to explain.

MN Dance Company

Good grief. Where to begin. My mind is buzzing with descriptors yet frozen in place. Like knowing there’s a fly in the house – you see it, you hear it, but can’t quite catch it. That’s how I feel about putting words to BTS’ most recent music video.

When Black Swan was released, I was paddling about in a lukewarm pool in a village outside of Vienna. The release date was the same as my husband’s birthday (Happy Birthday to him, amiright?), so I waded about and got my hair wet before I took a break in the lounge to watch BTS’ latest global hit.

Right off the bat, if I can just recommend this: Don’t watch new releases at an indoor pool. There’s something about old men in speedos and crying toddlers that really take the “umph” out of something that is nothing less than spectacular.

How I Felt

After returning home, I did the right thing and watched the music video six or seven or fifteen (who’s counting) times to better connect with the artwork. Being personally unfamiliar with dance as a creative form of communication, it took patience to understand the message in its entirety. But once I clued in on the video’s intent— feelings. Feelings were had.

Anxious

I felt this in ‘7’ Shadow: Interlude, but I don’t think it’s any kind of coincidence that I felt – in some degree – anxiety being communicated in Interlude and Black Swan. There is an urgent, almost panic-like rhythm beneath the dancers’ feet and orchestral strings. The violin staccatos without mercy, the cello relies on its G and C strings to whisper thoughts of dread and doom. The aesthetic is dark, unsurprisingly shadowed. Abandoned. But far from quiet. It’s noisy, uniformly chaotic.

So while I didn’t experience anxiety, I recognized the feeling with utmost certainty. The Black Swan’s determination to escape its shadows stirred up memories of feeling emotionally claustrophobic, trapped in my own mind and circumstances.

Understood

While I watched, my blood ached. But I felt heard. Understood. Because a sister friend once told me that, after she’d known me for some time, she always thought of me as someone trapped in a cage. The two of us have yet to define the cage, but we know it’s there, and unlike the Black Swan, I haven’t quite been able to break out. But remember: Once the Black Swan breaks out and runs free of his shadows, he walks his path alone. Which begs the question, Do I want to break out? Should I?

The tears, though. A faucet that forgot to save water for the dolphins. When the Black Swan met back up with his shadows and fought them off with beauty and poise and encouraged them to move with him? Are you with me right now, friend? In awe yet wondering if you’re capable of doing the same?

Hope

And then his shadows hold him up. They support him. They give him airtime and freedom. Maybe not the exact kind of freedom he thought he wanted, but freedom nonetheless. There’s room to grow, room to fly; room to stretch, room to rest.

How I Relate

Black Swan, since its release, has sparked a global discussion centered around what it means for us when we lose our passions, whether by choice or by force (the first death). So, too, has this piece asked us to look deep within ourselves for hints of fear and loss of focus as well as buried strength and spoonfuls of courage.

For me, the lyrics, dance movement, sound, and aesthetic struck me in two places of profound familiarity:

Depression and doubt.

When depression decides to settle in, the day’s seconds tick by in slow motion, the clock’s second scraping past every mark to reach a minute. A sleepy agony. A suffocating blanket. It’s like, I want to get out of bed, I’d love to will myself out of bed, but somehow, my blood has turned metallic, leaving me pinned to the mattress. So then, how can I “take flight”, move in freedom, if I’m sinking into my own thread count?

Now when doubt decides to pay a visit, that’s another thing entirely. There’s movement. It’s frantic. A wrestling match between the head and the heart. A mistrust of self. Should I move left? Run right? Could you tell me which way I should go? Never mind. I’ll go it alone.

Deeper
Yeah I think I’m going deeper.

I keep losing focus. No, just let go of me. Let my own feet carry me.

I’ll go in myself.

In the deepest depths, I saw myself.

j-hope, BTS

Part of the wrestling match, though, is the winner. And oh how good it feels when I realize I’ve come out on top.

Muscle Up

Looking back at Black Swan, this moment of “the win” is depicted is such a goosebumpy way— I love it. The Black Swan escapes the cage, as well as his shadows. According to the lyrics, the Black Swan flees saying, “Nothing can devour me, I shout out with ferocity.” That’s the summoning of courage, the discovery of strength, the gathering of wisdom.

At the end of the film, the Black Swan is fully in control of himself and his shadows. He hasn’t ignored them, but he’s decided to no longer give into them. With inner work and training, the Black Swan and his shadows can coexist for the betterment of his whole person. As Brené Brown says, “Strong back, soft front, wild heart.”

Final Thoughts

I Like Art Now?

I appreciate BTS & Co.’s aim to expand my understanding of art. I’ve never been interested in dance or art museums, but now, in my pursuit of understanding even a tenth of what BTS is trying to convey with each new release and hint, I find myself studying paintings, sculptures, contemporary masterpieces, the delicate footwork of a dancer. My horizons are broadening and I don’t mind it one bit.

What’s the Plan, Stan?

Admittedly, I’m nervous and anxious for what’s to come. Interlude and Black Swan were beautifully despairing, forcing me to look at the aspects of myself I’d rather ignore. On top of that, we’re not kidding ourselves here. We’re all wondering about their military enlistment this year. Will it be just Jin, and that’s the end of BTS as a 7-member group as it always has been? Will they be allowed to enlist together and we all sit and twiddle our thumbs for the next two years? Are they using Shadow and presumably Ego to say goodbye?

Hold On to Your Butts

As I ruminate over possibilities, I’m reminded of Samuel L. Jackson’s line from Jurassic Park I. None of us really know what’s coming our way, but we know it’ll be awesome and worth it and healing. Also. Are we beyond pumped for their first Black Swan performance next week? (Full disclosure: I am ever so slightly nervous about their interview with James Corden. Just… just ever so slightly. Ok maybe a lot slightly. Yeah I’m nervous.)

What did you think of Black Swan, and how did it speak to you?

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