Just for Fun
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

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.

Just for Fun
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

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.)

Keep reading... Show less
Magazine

Thodos Dance Chicago against Gang’s architecture. Photo by Katie Graves, Courtesy Thodos Dance.

Dance Jam

CHICAGO   Merce Cunningham, George Balanchine, Wayne McGregor—choreographers past and present have long collaborated with architects to add grandeur to their work. But Thodos Dance Chicago’s Melissa Thodos is taking that a step further, commissioning a set design that is integral to her dance’s concept. With University of Chicago physicists and local architect Jeanne Gang, her new piece explores “jamming”—when physical stress alters a substance’s density. “At its most basic,” says Thodos, “think of the solid to liquid-like change that happens when you take a vacuum-packed bag of coffee beans and cut it open.” To explore that idea, Gang’s sets will morph as the dancers manipulate them. Feb. 22 at the North Shore Center; March 8–9 at the Harris Theater. northshorecenter.org and harristheaterchicago.org.

 

 

 

Bracing for Eyes and Ears

NEW YORK CITY   For some, her work is a breath of fresh air. For others, her style clings too closely to Cunningham’s verticality and crisp shapes. Either way, Pam Tanowitz’s choreography, stark and geometric, fills the stage. Two premieres during her company’s first-ever performances at The Joyce Theater (Feb. 4–6) promise live music. FLUX Quartet will play Conlon Nancarrow string quartets in Heaven on One’s Head, and a John Zorn score played by Pauline Kim Harris will accompany Passagen. Best of all, Melissa Toogood, the sensual and athletic former Cunningham dancer, is one of Tanowitz’s eight performers. joyce.org.

 

Above: Dylan Crossman and Melissa Toogood. Photo by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy the Joyce.

 

 

 

A New Take on an Old Tale

ON TOUR   Fresh and full of theatrics, John Neumeier’s Liliom is a ballet with 21st-century touches: Its sets are fit for Broadway and its classical vocabulary is, at times, delightfully jazzy or pedestrian. The Hamburg Ballet production, based on Ferenc Molnár’s 1909 play, follows moody heartbreaker Liliom and his devoted lover Julie, danced by international ballerina Alina Cojocaru, who originated the role. (Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, Feb. 7–9.) The company’s U.S. tour continues to San Francisco (Feb. 12–13) and Chicago (Feb. 19–20), performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Third Symphony by Gustav Mahler, respectively. hamburgballett.de.

 

Above: Carsten Jung and Alina Cojocaru in Liliom. Photo by Holger Badekow, Courtesy Hamburg Ballet.

 

 

 

Packing In the Performances

DRESDEN, GERMANY   The fourth Dance Education Biennale offers a chance to conquer several must-see performances in one week, with ticket prices starting at under $15. Daytime roundtables allow pre-professionals and college students to chat with prominent dance professionals. By night, the Semperoper Ballett dances Stijn Celis’ modern day Romeo und Julia and mixed rep including David Dawson’s award-winning The Grey Area. Also on the boards: The Forsythe Company’s new fort-building frenzy, Sider. Feb. 15–23 at Palucca Hochschule für Tanz Dresden. biennale-tanzausbildung.de.

 

Above: Semperoper Ballett will also perform Jirí Kylián’s Bella Figura. Costin Radu, Courtesy Semperoper Ballett.

 

 

 

Bringing Brazil to NYC

NEW YORK CITY   Fiercely physical, capoeira’s driving music and movement have caught the attention of dancers everywhere. The style is a mainstay of the muscular DanceBrazil, one of four companies in the Joyce’s three-week Brazil Festival. Also on the lineup: Sonia Destri Lie’s Companhia Urbana de Dança, sure to grab attention with its hybrid postmodern, hip hop and jazz; Focus Cia de Dança, which uses gestural choreography to great dramatic effect; and Mimulus, from which we can expect sensuality and humor. Feb. 26–March 16. joyce.org.

 

Left: DanceBrazil in Fé do Sertão. Photo by Sharen Bradford, Courtesy the Joyce.

Magazine

The Music Man

Mark Morris Dance Group is plenty busy this month, headlining Luminato, Toronto’s annual arts festival, with Morris’ masterwork L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato in its Canadian premiere June 21–23. Morris directs this year’s Ojai Music Festival (the first choreographer to do so), where his dancers will perform; and at Ojai North!, a collaboration with Cal Performances in Berkeley, MMDG will premiere Morris’ Rite of Spring, danced to a new arrangement of Stravinsky’s music by The Bad Plus jazz trio. www.luminato.com and www.ojaifestival.org.

 

MMDG in L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato. Photo by Elaine Mayson, Courtesy Luminato.

Adventures in Action

Two daring dancemakers return to this year’s Festival TransAmériques in Montreal. Lemi Ponifasio brings Birds with Skymirrors, in which frenetic limbs contrast with intense stillness. At 54, the indomitable Louise Lecavalier performs So Blue, a whirlwind solo and duet for which she receives her first sole choreographic credit. May 29–June 7. www.fta.qc.ca.

 

Lecavalier in So Blue. Photo by André Cornellier, Courtesy FTA.

 

 

Feast for 40

This year marks John Neumeier’s 40th anniversary at the helm of Hamburg Ballet. To celebrate, the company has expanded its annual summer festival Hamburg Ballet-Days. HB will dance in 16 productions over the three weeks, joined by its school and two guest troupes led by former company dancers: Ivan Liska of Bavarian State Ballet and Jean-Christophe Maillot of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo. While companies all over the world have been feting the centennial of The Rite of Spring, Neumeier, whose personal collection of Nijinsky memorabilia is legendary, has dedicated several evenings to his idol/muse. June 9–30. www.hamburgballett.de.

 

Neumeier rehearsing Carsten Jung in his Liliom. Photo by Holger Badekow, Courtesy HB.

 

 

Swiftly but Gently

A free series of site-specific performances around San Francisco, presented by Dancers’ Group/ONSITE, honors a local pioneer this month. Amara Tabor-Smith, a former associate artistic director of Urban Bush Women who now directs Oakland-based Deep Waters Dance Theater, pays tribute to her mentor, choreographer Ed Mock, an AIDS casualty in the 1980s. June 15–23. www.dancersgroup.org.

 

Amara Tabor-Smith. Photo by Alan Kimara Dixon, Courtesy Tabor-Smith.

 

 

Rudi Remembered

Twenty years after his death (and 75 after his birth), Rudolf Nureyev’s impact on ballet is still felt worldwide. Tributes to the unrelentingly charismatic star have been happening all year, and this summer brings still more. In addition to a gala at the Vienna State Opera Ballet at the end of the month and a production of his Swan Lake at Teatro alla Scala later this summer, Le Palais des Congrès de Paris hosts the Noureev and Friends gala May 31–June 1. The fabulous lineup of today’s stars come from companies like the Bolshoi (Obraztsova), the Mariinsky (Kondaurova and Somova), and English National Ballet (Rojo). www.viparis.com.

 

Nureyev in costume for Don Quixote. Photo by Serge Lido, DM Archives.

 

 

The Supremes

Three enduring goddesses of downtown dance—Sara Rudner, Vicky Shick, and Jodi Melnick—come together at The Yard June 22–30. Each one alone is glorious to behold, but together they’ll be an irresistible pileup of brainy female sensuality. Also on the agenda at Martha’s Vineyard’s largest dance festival: Faye Driscoll (see “Word Play,” April), Doug Elkins, Everett Dance Theatre, and Deborah Lohse (see “Nine Who Dared,” Nov. 2012). Without a doubt, The Yard, now helmed by former DTW chief David White, is undergoing a major revitalization. www.dancetheyard.org.

 

Melnick. Photo by Matthew Karas.

 

 

Forsythe: Former and Future

William Forsythe’s approach to ballet technique was revolutionary in the 1980s. His style is still often imitated, never matched. In recent years, with his own Forsythe Company, he has moved into the realm of dance theater—where whimsy and crazily delicious dancing play equal roles. His latest piece, which comes to Sadler’s Wells this month, aims to cover it all. Study #3 incorporates movement sequences, choreographic methods, music, costumes, and technical effects from 30 works spanning the last 30 years. www.sadlerswells.com.

 

 

 

The Forsythe Company in Study #3. Photo by Dominik Mentzos, Courtesy Sadler’s Wells.

 

 

Contributors: Suzannah Friscia, Wendy Perron, Kina Poon

Magazine

Gallim Glows

Physical expression, humor, intensity—Gallim Dance takes these facets of performance way past the bounds of what’s comfortable or expected, with engrossing results. The company brings director Andrea Miller’s hilarious Pupil Suite and Mama Call, which draws inspiration from Miller’s Sephardic-American roots, to Wesleyan University Center for the Arts Feb. 8–9 and Temecula, CA, March 22–23. Sit, Kneel, Stand, with its star turn for “25 to Watch” Jonathan Royse Windham, will be performed at Georgia State University on Feb. 16. www.gallimdance.com.

 

Miller’s Pupil Suite. Photo by Franziska Strauss, Courtesy Wesleyan.

 

 

Set Design Swagger

Crashing waves, starry skies, and laser shows will hit the REDCAT stage on Feb. 14–16 as Japanese dancer/ choreographer Hiroaki Umeda aims to dazzle viewers with both technological effects and his choreography, a mix of hip-hop, ballet, and butoh. Umeda, who plans these effects on his laptop, will also take the two works, Haptic and Holistic Strata, to the Wexner Center in Columbus, OH, Canadian Stage in Toronto, and New York Live Arts. www.hiroakiumeda.com.

 

Umeda’s Holistic Strata. Photo courtesy Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media.

 

 

Pure Power

Bursting with energy, the New Zealand–based Black Grace embarks on a two-month North American tour. Making its Portland debut at White Bird on Feb. 19, the company performs a smattering of works including the full-length Waka. Packing power into skilled manipulations of the body, these dancers, led by artistic director Neil Ieremia, can be seen in Seattle; Pittsburgh; Saint Paul; Victoria, Canada; and Northridge, CA. www.blackgrace.co.nz.

 

Carl Tolentino and Thomas Fonua. Photo by Duncan Cole, Courtesy White Bird.

 

 

Rhythm and Soul

Performances, master classes, and other special events abound in San Francisco and Oakland this month as the 2013 Black Choreographers Festival marks its ninth year. Bay Area–based dancemakers Gregory Dawson, Raissa Simpson, and Colette Eloi, among others, will present work along with notable out-of-towners such as Camille A. Brown. A celebration of the 40th anniversary of Oakland’s Dimensions Dance Theater stands out among the two weeks of festival activities. www.bcfhereandnow.com.

 

Co-director of the Black Choreographers Festival Laura E. Ellis. Photo by Andy Mogg, Courtesy BCF.

 

 

Hamburg on Tour

The Hamburg Ballet brings John Neumeier’s sweeping dramatics to Orange County, Chicago, and San Francisco this month with two programs. The Little Mermaid swims into the Segerstrom Center of the Arts Feb. 8–10, while Nijinsky, which reimagines the ballet superstar’s career with the Ballets Russes, will be danced at the Harris Theater Feb. 1–2 and the War Memorial Opera House Feb. 13–19. www.hamburgballett.de.

 

Alexandre Riabko in The Little Mermaid. Photo by Holger Badekow, Courtesy HB.

 

 

Spare Change

Whether you think of Anna Halprin’s Parades and Changes as revolutionary, ritualistic, or raunchy, most viewers are riveted by the slow-motion undressing and dressing section—as well as the wanton ripping-huge-reams-of-paper scene. For Halprin’s “final” setting of this iconic 1960s work, dancers from around the world are coming to Berkeley to participate. Leading this parade of dancer/(re)searchers will be the original collaborators: Halprin herself (see “Nine Who Dared,” Nov.) and composer Morton Subotnick. Feb. 15–17, UC Berkeley Art Museum, with an exhibit of related artifacts on view in Gallery 1. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu.

 

A performance of Parades and Changes in 1970 in Stockholm. Photo by Ohlstrom, Courtesy BAMPFA.

 

 

Song and Dance

As the capital of country music, Nashville is bursting with tuneful talent—a situation just begging for collaboration. Nashville Ballet has put singer/songwriter Matthew Perryman Jones, known for his heartfelt pop-country lyricism, with choreographer Gina Patterson to work on a premiere. Also appearing on the program are Dominic Walsh’s lively The Whistling and Sarah Slipper’s passionate Ploughing the Dark, inspired by the love letters of Anton Chekhov and his wife, Olga Knipper. Feb. 15–17. www.nashvilleballet.com.

 

Jon Upleger and Sadie Bo Harris in Slipper’s Ploughing the Dark. Photo by Marianne Leach, Courtesy NB.

 

 

Contributors: Kathleen Dalton, Wendy Perron, Kina Poon

 

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox