Shanghai Grand Theatre's yearlong celebration of Shakespeare continues on April 22-23 with a presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. However, with the Bard making an appearance within the show, the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève has crafted a wholly original take on a romantic classic.
Commissioned by the company and created by French choreographer Michel Kelemenis, the surreal show elevates the King of the Elves and the Fairy Queen to starring roles while relegating the lovers’ story to a subplot.
“Michel Kelemenis has taken the essential characters of Shakespeare’s play and identified them by the pure spirit of the theme and story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” explains the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève’s Artistic Director Philippe Cohen.
“The breaking down of indivdual identities leads to the central conflict of the story. Based on a lack of recognition for the other in a relationship, this makes it dangerous for any of the lovers to come together due to the disturbance of nature caused by a fairy dispute.”
Characters from other Shakespearean plays like Falstaff and historical figures like Elizabeth I are caught in the cross hairs. With Cupid on the hunt to create “an extravagant cult of love,” the show follows the ensuing chaos that Cohen describes as “a type of haze through which distinction between characters becomes nearly impossible.”
If that sounds overly heady, rest assured that the show has won wide praise for its stunning choreography. Describing it as mixture of neoclassical and contemporary styles, Cohen praises Kelemenis for “taking the finesse of neoclassical lines and combining them with contemporary hand and arm gestures that illustrate and design the space around the dancers.”
The show has taken great pains to create this fairy tale world with extravagant sets as well as Nicolas Musin’s costumes that span “elf-like inspired creatures within the forest to the elaborate bold colors of the mechanicals to the very human, well dressed lovers.”
Since its 2013 debut in Geneva, A Midsummer Night’s Dream has toured from South Africa to France. Cohen promises “the production will stay in its repertoire for the following years to come as an original and poetic tale.”
It’s part of Cohen’s goal to build upon the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève’s acclaimed reputation that began in 1962, when it rose out of the ashes of the Grand Théâtre that hosted legends from Nijinsky to Isadora Duncan.
Work is underway for May’s world premiere of choreographer Claude Brumachon’s adaptation of the medieval text Carmina Burana and Cohen notes that their quest to try new things has been key to retaining success.
“The reputation of the company has remained very strong due to the fact that we have evolved and respected the audience’s desire for original breathtaking works,” he explains.
“We always strive to engage the highest level of choreographers and dancers, which reinforces the world renowned stature of the company, while at the same time giving opportunity to the new and up-and-coming.”