You might say, "You just had to be there," about the Joffrey Ballet's 2017 world premiere of John Neumeier's reimagined Orphée et Eurydice with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. But on January 18, audiences from around the country will have a chance to witness this extraordinary collaboration up close, from the comfort of their living rooms, as PBS stations broadcast Orphée et Eurydice on "Great Performances".
November 10–18, the National Ballet of Canada presents the North American premiere of John Neumeier's Anna Karenina at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto. Co-produced with Hamburg Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet, NBoC is the last of the three companies to present the new two-act production.
Anna Karenina: Inside the Studio | 2018 | The National Ballet of Canada www.youtube.com
When American Ballet Theatre announced yesterday that it would be adding Jane Eyre to its stable of narrative full-lengths, the English nerds in the DM offices (read: most of us) got pretty excited. Cathy Marston's adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's classic novel was created for England's Northern Ballet in 2016, and, based on the clips that have made their way online, it seems like a perfect fit for ABT's Met Opera season.
It also got us thinking about what other classic novels we'd love to see adapted into ballets—but then we realized just how many there already are. From Russian epics to beloved children's books, here are 10 of our favorites that have already made the leap from page to stage. (Special shoutout to Northern Ballet, the undisputed MVP of turning literature into live performance.)
Northern Ballet in David Nixon's The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
Star-crossed lovers? Check. Wild party scenes? Check. The 1920s aesthetic is just bonus.
Dutch National Ballet in John Cranko's Onegin (Alexander Pushkin)
It's a novel in verse, but it still counts! Cranko's pas de deux work vividly paints the emotional turmoil of Pushkin's characters, such as this sequence in which Tatiana imagines being loved by the haughty Onegin.
The Royal Ballet in Liam Scarlett's Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
It's spooky, it's sensational, it's a deep meditation on the nature of humanity—oh, and it's alive.
Northern Ballet in David Nixon's The Three Musketeers (Alexandre Dumas)
All for one and one for all! (And we're all in for this epic fight choreography the dancers took to a famous Abbey in their hometown of Leeds, England.)
Charlotte Ballet in Sasha Janes' Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë)
The Brontë sisters had a knack for writing complex, tempestuous relationships—great fodder for pas de deux like this one.
The Washington Ballet in Septime Webre's Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie)
Sword-fighting, pirates, pixie dust and a ticking crocodile? This one simply flies off the page.
Hamburg Ballet in John Neumeier's Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
Some would argue that Tolstoy's epic is the greatest literature ever written, but you can't argue with the fact that the titular heroine is a deliciously complex character to tackle.
The Royal Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)
Why is a raven like a writing desk? We still might not know the answer to Carroll's riddle, but we do know that Wheeldon's blockbuster production is so full of incredible moments (like Steven McRae stealing the show as a tap-dancing Mad Hatter) that we had trouble narrowing it down.
Atlanta Ballet in Michael Pink's Dracula (Bram Stoker)
There's a reason it seemed at one point like every ballet company in America had a production of Dracula in its repertoire.
Northern Ballet in Jonathan Watkins' 1984 (George Orwell)
Just in case the dystopian nightmare conjured by Orwell wasn't vivid enough in your own imagination.
Is there anything more heart-wrenching than a tale of doomed lovers? It's no wonder that so many enduring ballets don't end in happy embraces. John Neumeier's modern Sylvia plumbs the depths of the story for its most melancholy notes. Paris Opéra Ballet étoiles, who make up the ballet's original cast, are masterful storytellers in the emotionally charged ballet.
In this clip from a DVD released in 2006, Marie-Agnès Gillot plays the huntress Diana. Her love faces a fate even more dispiriting than death: Endymion, danced by José Martínez, is doomed to eternal sleep. She dances in memory, a passionate pas de deux with a partner who cannot reciprocate. Diana's inescapable loneliness is etched on Gillot's features: the strong huntress at her most vulnerable.
What's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.
The Bolshoi Premiere of John Neumeier's Anna Karenina
Last July Hamburg Ballet presented the world premiere of John Neumeier's Anna Karenina, a modern adaptation on Leo Tolstoy's famous novel. Hamburg Ballet coproduced the full-length ballet with the National Ballet of Canada and the Bolshoi, the latter of which will premiere the work March 23 (NBoC will have its premiere in November). The production will feature Bolshoi star Svetlana Zakharova in the title role. This is especially fitting as Neumeier's initial inspiration for the ballet came from Zakharova while they were working together on his Lady of the Camellias. The following video delves into what makes this production stand out.
The first time Ashley Wheater was courted to be artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet, he said "Thanks, but no thanks"—he was very happy at San Francisco Ballet, where he'd spent eight years as a principal dancer and 10 more on the artistic staff. But a trip to the Windy City for the Chicago Dancing Festival and a visit to Joffrey's studios prompted feelings of nostalgia for Wheater's early years dancing with the company.
He was hired by co-founders Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino in 1985, when the company was still based in New York City and under Joffrey's direction. After Joffrey's death, Arpino became artistic director and later moved a struggling Joffrey Ballet to its current home in Chicago in 1995.
When Arpino fell ill and began to look for a successor, the company had lost much of its original adventurous spirit. Remembering its earlier spark, Wheater agreed to apply during that trip to Chicago, and accepted on the spot in 2007 after a weeklong interview process.
As the third artistic director in the company's 62-year history, Wheater has spent the last 10 years rebuilding its national reputation, tackling challenging new repertoire and reimagined classics at a ferocious pace. The rep now includes works by choreographers like Christopher Wheeldon, John Neumeier, Alexander Ekman and Yuri Possokhov. Wheater shelved many of Joffrey's and Arpino's dances to make room for new ones, preferring to honor Robert Joffrey's legacy by taking risks and fostering innovation.
Wheater. Photo by Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet.
At the July world premiere of his Anna Karenina at the Hamburg Ballet, John Neumeier showed that his craft for storytelling is among the best. Highlighting the stunning technique and dramatic strengths of his dancers, Neumeier thrust the audience into an emotional whirlwind as powerful and varying as Tolstoy's prose.
Laudere and Revazov in "Anna Karenina." Photo by Kiran West, Courtesy Hamburg Ballet.
In a dream world we'd all be able to pop over to the Bolshoi to see the best of Russian ballet whenever we want. But because (unfortunately) that's not a possibility for most of us, the Bolshoi makes it easier by bringing their masterpieces to the silver screen. Now in its 8th year, the 2017-18 Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema season presents a wide range of classic story ballets restaged by some of today's most celebrated choreographers. Movie theaters nationwide will screen these ballets starting on October 22; you can find the closest cinema to your hometown here. So grab a ballet-loving friend and a bucket of popcorn and be sure to get your tickets soon—if these knockout trailers are any indication, tickets are bound to sell out fast.
First up is Le Corsaire. Reworked by Alexei Ratmansky (a theme of this year's selections) from Petipa's 19th century classic, this ballet is billed by the Bolshoi as one of their "most lavish productions." A full shipwreck on stage? Yeah, "lavish" seems about right.
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Song and dance are an enduring artistic pairing. In the early days of ballet, the art form usually appeared in the realm of professional theater via dance scenes in operas. But ballet and opera certainly still mingle today.
The Joffrey Ballet is currently in rehearsals for its very first collaboration with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in John Neumeier's new production of Christoph Willibald Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice. The 18th-century opera, which runs from September 23-October 15 at the Lyric Opera House, is based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and his quest to bring his bride, Eurydice, back from the dead.
How is preparing for an opera different than preparing for a ballet?
How does it feel to be a competitor at the Prix de Lausanne? It’s day three of the annual week-long competition in Lausanne, Switzerland, and the more than 70 dancers are managing long yet exhilarating days full of classes and coaching sessions, while being evaluated by a nine-member jury. On top of that, the students from North and South America, Asia and Australia have a major time difference to contend with. “The jet lag was okay at first, but now it’s starting to get to me,” says Nayeli Paez, 17, from Mexico. “It was so hard to get up this morning!”
And there’s another challenge: The stage is raked, or sloped towards the audience. On Monday, you could see the candidates struggle through their turns and jumps as they tried to adjust. “It’s really steep,” says 17-year-old Houston Ballet II dancer Caroline Perry. She's performing Giselle’s Act I variation, which includes traveling hops on pointe. At the end, she says, “you’re going downstage, so you want to speed up or fall forward. I have to keep my weight back.” Fellow HBII dancer Andrew Vicseri, 17, learned a trick from his teacher: “If you look slightly up whenever you do turns or tours, it will put you on balance because it will help keep your weight back and project more.”
The competition’s week-long format has helped everyone grow more comfortable in class and onstage. This is especially true for the contemporary portion, which is given equal emphasis. By today, many of the boys were looking more confident for the judges in Didy Veldman’s contemporary class. (At one point, they even had to make crazy facial expressions in slow motion.) Each dancer is also receiving private coaching on both their classical and contemporary variation (a piece from John Neumeier’s repertoire). Paez, who moved to the U.S. to dance with HB II, notes that Hamburg Ballet ballet master Laura Cazzaniga helped give her solo from Nocturnes more artistic context. “She told me that I have to create my own story,” she says. “It’s a variation about dreams and memories, so I’m thinking of my home in Mexico and the memories that I’ve had there.”
Everyone I spoke with said that the best part of the Prix so far has been meeting new people from all over the world. “It’s just so magical, the atmosphere,” says 18-year-old Stanislaw Wegryzn of Poland, who hopes the competition will lead to a job offer. “I think in the future all of us will be dancing professionally, and all of us will be friends.”
Alessandra Ferri, the iconic dance actress, has emerged, at age 52, from a six-year retirement into an astonishing post-career. After successes with projects like Martha Clarke's Chéri and the critically praised Woolf Works at The Royal Ballet, Ferri has been tapped by Hamburg Ballet's John Neumeier as the muse for his Duse—Myth and Mysticism of the Italian Actress Eleonora Duse. As an actress at the turn of the 20th century, Duse's performances were both highly popular and critically acclaimed, and she was lauded by writers like Anton Chekhov and George Bernard Shaw. The ballet, set to music by Benjamin Britten and Arvo Pärt, will premiere on December 6.
Why did you return to performing?
I realized a part of me was switched off. I love creating and dancing and performing with other artists. I feel very much alive when I do that. The first thing I did—The Piano Upstairs—was a fascinating collaboration with John Weidman. Then Martha Clarke came along (with Chéri). It all happened without me looking for it. Now I'm more conscious of my desire for doing it. At the moment I feel free and much more appreciative of the talent I was given.
Alessandra Ferri, the iconic dance actress, has emerged, at age 52, from a six-year retirement into an astonishing post-career. After successes with projects like Martha Clarke’s Chéri and the critically praised Woolf Works at The Royal Ballet, Ferri has been tapped by Hamburg Ballet’s John Neumeier as the muse for his Duse—Myth and Mysticism of the Italian Actress Eleonora Duse. As an actress at the turn of the 20th century, Duse’s performances were both highly popular and critically acclaimed, and she was lauded by writers like Anton Chekhov and George Bernard Shaw. The ballet, set to music by Benjamin Britten and Arvo Pärt, will premiere on December 6.
Alessandra Ferri in rehearsal for Duse with Hamburg Ballet principal Alexandr Trusch (photo by Holger Badekow, courtesy Hamburg Ballet)
Why did you return to performing?
I realized a part of me was switched off. I love creating and dancing and performing with other artists. I feel very much alive when I do that. The first thing I did—The Piano Upstairs—was a fascinating collaboration with John Weidman. Then Martha Clarke came along (with Chéri). It all happened without me looking for it. Now I’m more conscious of my desire for doing it. At the moment I feel free and much more appreciative of the talent I was given.
What does John Neumeier wish to explore with you in Duse?
I think John has always been very passionate about theater and acting. Eleonora Duse was the first modern actor. She completely changed the art form. She was a very complex, strong and vulnerable woman and very devoted to her art. It’s funny—when I’m talking about her, I’m saying the same things about myself. She felt alive when she was onstage.
What is it like to portray a real-life character?
It’s so hard in dance to just be biographical because dance is the language of emotion. Duse starts out at the end of her life. John is interested in exploring the different woman she was with all these men in her life, like the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio. She really wanted to help and console people. She suffered a lot in her life and was very sensitive to suffering.
Did you make any special preparations for the role?
I visited two museums—one in Venice and one in Asola—which house some of Duse’s original letters and clothes. I also read the book Il Fuoco by D’Annunzio, which describes her life.