That talented weaver of tales, Mr. William Shakespeare, has inspired artists for more than four centuries – an impressive legacy indeed. From reincarnations of his plays to spoofs, cabarets, visual art and music, his texts have been often explored, at times exploited, and thoroughly enjoyed by thousands of artists and audiences in multiple contexts.
When it comes to dance, Shakespeare’s story of Romeo & Juliet was one of the first literary works to inspire choreographers, with a first production of the show appearing in the early 19th century. The dramatic themes of love and tragedy are perfectly suited to the vivid and elegant movement of ballet so it’s not surprising that nearly every ballet company has a version of the beloved work in their repertoire. Romeo & Juliet is an example of a narrative ballet in which the choreography closely follows the storyline, like a play without words.
In contemporary dance, choreographers have generally moved away from narrative storytelling and instead often use the themes from a text to inspire corresponding movements reflecting the mood, patterns and drama of the literary work. For example, Canadian choreographer Tom Stroud uses text as a basis for his work but takes a more poetic approach by crafting a series of images around a theme or themes in a text. In his show The Garden, he follows the general chronology of Shakespeare’s Hamlet but the audience may not be able to follow the storyline if they don’t know it well. The story is there in the background, but the dancers focus on the images and emotions.
In The Tempest Replica, which will be presented at The Centre on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 @ 7.30PM, critically-acclaimed choreographer Crystal Pite has crafted a work that takes a little from both the narrative and thematic styles. Not surprisingly, given her exceptional reputation, Pite has created a completely unique and startlingly wonderful dance piece. So, while The Tempest Replica is not a pure narrative dance, it also isn’t only an abstract reflection of the story’s themes.
To set the stage, characters dressed completely in white, “replicas”, introduce the plot and the main characters of the story. Behind the dancers, pieces of text are projected onto a backdrop, providing further context for the visuals.
Pite’s hope is that with a “synopsis” in place right off the top, the audience will get more out of the dance segments that follow, as they will be more invested in the characters and the story being told.
The Tempest Replica is a continually-evolving work, steeped in Pite’s signature physicality, and made all the more interesting and special with the input of the incredible dancers she works with. The show has a run time of 80 minutes and no intermission. Both hard-core dance lovers and newbies will appreciate this exceptional production and since tickets are just $35, it’s a perfect opportunity to try something new.