Keeps performers on their toes, literally
The most famous soliloquy of all times, “to be or not to be”, will be “spoken” without uttering a word, through dance movements.
Shakespeare’s play Hamlet will be presented as a fulllength ballet, and the newproduction will premiere at Shanghai Grand Theater on April 15 and 16.
Choreographer Derek Deane says the story ofHamlet is “so universal that it can be told anywhere, in any language, any art form”.
Despite earlier attempts to present the story in short episodes of ballet, there has not been a feature production. That’s because choreographers often fret about “how am I going to tell the story”, Deane says at a news conference in Shanghai.
He believes, however, the story is so famous and self-evident that there is no need to spell out everything that happens in Shakespeare’s tale. Instead, he wants to bring out all the tragic and happy moments in the story of Hamlet.
Deane is a renowned choreographer from Britain who has been named as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. The former artistic director of the EnglishNational Ballet began to work with the Shanghai Ballet in 2000, and has since produced Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet and The Nutcracker with the company.
The Shanghai Ballet has been a prolific and innovative company, says Zhang Zhe, president of Shanghai Grand Theater, the coproducer of the ballet. The “wonder team” of the Shanghai Ballet and the theater has jointly produced The Nutcracker in 2010, Jane Eyre in 2012 and Echoes of Eternity in 2015.
Hamlet will be the only original project in the theater’s new season commemorating the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare.
“We have chosen the project not simply because of the occasion or the whim of any official,” Zhang says. “We have high respect for the principles of art, and picked the play after in-depth discussions with the choreographer.”
Deane comes from a classical background, but the production is not strictly classical. “There is a whole cross-section choreographic movement— with lots of neoclassical work, as well as contemporary work — in this piece,” he says. “I view it emotionally, to change things choreographically, to express different emotions.”
It was the rich feelings and colorful characters of the play that interested Deane.
“It’s a wonderful story for the dance theater, because there is so much in it: There is love, hate, passion, desire, murder, suicide — every kind of emotion is part of the story.”
As a choreographer, he found it “so much more interesting and more rewarding” to push the dancers, emotionally and physically.
Unlike a one-dimensional character like the prince in Swan Lake, Hamlet has “eight, 10 dimensions in his mind”, and all these emotions make him more real — and human.
It will be a two-hour production, during which Hamlet, played byWuHusheng, “never leaves the stage”.