Royal Winnipeg Ballet revived Lila York's adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale earlier this month. Photo by David Cooper, Courtesy RWB

10 Ballets For When You'd Rather Watch Your Literature

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.

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Stark Photo Productions, Courtesy Harlequin

Why Your Barre Can Make or Break Your At-Home Dance Training

Throughout the pandemic, Shelby Williams, of Royal Ballet of Flanders (aka "Biscuit Ballerina"), has been sharing videos that capture the pitfalls of dancers working from home: slipping on linoleum, kicking over lamps and even taking windows apart at the "barre." "Dancers aren't known to be graceful all of the time," says Mandy Blackmon, PT, DPT, OSC, CMTPT, head physical therapist/medical director for Atlanta Ballet. "They tend to fall and trip."

Many dancers have tried to make their home spaces as safe as possible for class and rehearsal by setting up a piece of marley, like Harlequin's Dance Mat, to work on. But there's another element needed for taking thorough ballet classes at home: a portable barre.

"Using a barre is kinda Ballet 101," says 16-year-old Haley Dale, a student in her second year at American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. She'd bought a portable barre from Harlequin to use at her parents' home in Northern Virginia even before the pandemic hit. "Before I got it, honestly I would stay away from doing barre work at home. Now I'm able to do it all the time."

Blackmon bought her 15-year-old stepdaughter a freestanding Professional Series Ballet Barre from Harlequin early on in quarantine. "I was worried about her injuring herself without one," she admits.

What exactly makes Harlequin's barres an at-home must-have, and hanging on to a chair or countertop so risky? Here are five major differences dancers will notice right away.

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December 2020