On January 17, BTS released “Black Swan”, an introspective new song with a bittersweet story.
The “Black Swan” art film, featuring MN Dance Company begins with a quote by Martha Graham. “A dancer dies twice — once when they stop dancing, and this first death is the more painful.”
Martha Graham was an iconic American dancer and choreographer, named “Dancer of the Century” by TIME magazine. She created the highly expressive and dramatic Graham technique that uses “contraction and release” to create its signature spirals, falls, and distinct hand movements.
According to the description of “Black Swan” on Melon, Martha Graham’s quote was the inspiration for the song. “Black Swan” tells the story of a dancer, an artist, who fears the death of their career: the moment when they can no longer perform on stage. The moment when music no longer touches BTS’s hearts or stirs their passion is the moment when the specter of that “first death” appears.
The heart no longer races
When hearing the music play
Tryna pull up
Seems like time has stopped
Oh that would be my first death I been always afraid of…
— “Black Swan” lyrics
When Martha Graham retired from the stage, she suffered from depression, finding it painful to watch the next generation of dancers dance the choreographies she once danced herself. In her memoir Blood Memory, she wrote:
It wasn’t until years after I had relinquished a ballet that I could bear to watch someone else dance it. I believe in never looking back, never indulging in nostalgia, or reminiscing. Yet how can you avoid it when you look on stage and see a dancer made up to look as you did thirty years ago, dancing a ballet you created with someone you were then deeply in love with, your husband? I think that is a circle of hell Dante omitted.
– Martha Graham, Blood Memory
When looking at Martha Graham’s life, fans may notice some similarities between her work and BTS’s. For instance, in her 70-year career, Martha Graham choreographed 181 ballets, some of which were inspired by Greek mythology. One of her most famous ballets is Clytemnestra, based on an ancient Greek legend.
BTS introduced a blend of Greek mythology and Jungian psychology in their 2019 album, MAP OF THE SOUL: Persona. This is most prominently seen in their song, “Dionysus”.
Martha Graham also collaborated with artists from various fields to bring her visions to life. She worked with renowned sculptors, fashion designers, and composers, among others. For MAP OF THE SOUL: 7, BTS is taking their music to the next level with “CONNECT, BTS”, a collaboration with artists around the world.
Watch the art film for “Black Swan” here: