PostHeaderIcon Midsummer Dance Madness

I have now seen three “Midsummer Night’s Dream” productions–Shakespeare’s, Peter Brooks’ magical updating and now Alexander Ekman‘s Swedish version in dance. All are supremely inventive tellings of mistaken identity (less with Ekman), merry romps and the thin line betwixt dream and reality.

Joffrey Ballet - Midsummer FeastThe Joffrey Ballet gave the tale, transplanted to Sweden, its Chicago premiere last Wednesday and one of the first since its world premiere in Stockholm in April, 2015. Its superbly-trained ballet corps of more than 40 dancers gave a performance full of eye-catching choreography, thrilling special effects and hearty laughter. It’s a winning way to celebrate director Ashley Wheater‘s 10th anniversary season.

Ekman’s terpsichore was ably complemented by Mikael Karlsson‘s highly-engaging score and the high-pitched, otherworldly sounds of Swedish vocalist, Anna Von Hausswolff. 

Midsummer in Sweden is celebrated each year between June 19th and 25th. The feast includes games, dances around the pole and tug of war. The celebrations also include eating lunch or dinner outdoors at long tables, a recreated element that provided an impressive visual scene in the ballet.

Joffrey Ballet - Midsummer FrenzieThe Joffrey’s “Dream” involves a sleeper, nestled in a bed at the far right side of the stage. His dream in the first act is one of happy times by day. Yet, following intermission, all hell breaks loose and he is caught in a nightmarish frenzy. Throughout the ballet, one’s attention never flags as we experience visual, lighting and dance delights.

As I watched, I was reminded of Swedish filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman, and his great 1955 film of Midsummer, Smiles of a Summer Night,  since been adapted for the musical, A Little Night Music. Those Swedes, contrary to their dour popular impression, sure know how to have a good time.

I confess that I didn’t enter expecting such a wild spree. Joffrey is known for its reliance on older story ballets but, with “Dream”, it appears to want to break out of its usual box with this totally modern offering. It may have seemed like a gamble but it wasn’t and it paid off handsomely! I hope it enters Joffrey’s repertoire and we have the pleasure of seeing more dreams when we need a laugh and some smartly executed dance.

You can still catch “Midsummer Night’s Dream” through this Sunday, May 6, at the Auditorium Theatre. Tickets can be purchased at 312/386-8905 or at JoffreyBallet.org 

 

 

 

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