People love stories – they help us to comprehend the world around us. Ballet tells stories differently. Wordlessly communicating inner states and human relationships rather than specific information, dance becomes the living shape of emotion.
As a choreographer, I was influenced early on in my artistic development by my mentor, the teacher and theatre director Father John J. Walsh S.J. who taught me to see dance as a special form of theatre. Since then, I have experimented in my many creations with the idea of devising new forms for narrative ballet.
In keeping with its motto "Narratives", the 2019/20 season of the Hamburg Ballet explores this issue with some of the solutions I have discovered over the past years. For the winter premiere, I return, after A Streetcar Named Desire, to Tennessee Williams, this time using his great play The Glass Menagerie as inspiration. Although his drama involves only four characters, the internal, poetic dream world of his characters will be my subject.
The second premiere of the season shows the work of the choreographer Christopher Wheeldon based on a classic of world literature. Wheeldon himself will oversee the staging of his adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. His work is known in Hamburg because of the ballet VIII based on King Henry VIII which he created in 2001 for The Britten Evening. Later his symphonic ballet Polyphonia was presented in Hamburg in 2005.
The timeless human quality of Shakespeare's writings is a unique source of inspiration for choreographers. Following Shakespeare – Sonnets, our summer premiere 2019 choreographed by three choreographers of the Hamburg Ballet, and the Shakespeare Project of the National Youth Ballet at the Ernst Deutsch Theater, two contrasting ballets based on dramas by Shakespeare will be revived during the 2019/2020 season: First, A Midsummer Night's Dream – a classic of our Hamburg repertoire in which I addressed the challenge of combining various narrative strands using contrasting music. Then, in spring the ballet Hamlet, in which I deal not only with the actions in Shakespeare's play – but also the history leading to the drama, will be revived in a new version. Apart from other narrative ballets created in various decades (The Nutcracker, Illusions – like Swan Lake and Anna Karenina), we will present two ballets based on great oratorios – a genre that, by definition, implies a story as inspiration: Christmas Oratorio I-VI and Saint Matthew Passion.
My most recent ballet Beethoven Project which blends elements of narrative and symphonic ballet, Gluck's reform opera Orphée et Eurydice in its Paris version, and the ballet revue Bernstein Dances celebrating the spirit of Leonard Bernstein will also form a part of our repertoire. In addition, we present The Song of the Earth, All Our Yesterdays and Brahms/Balanchine – ballets that belong to the symphonic genre, combining, however, song texts which add additional layers to the narrative experience.
I anticipate my 47th season with the Hamburg Ballet with great excitement – proud of the variety of our wide range of ballet productions and curious about the reactions of our loyal audience!