Oct. 31, 2012 - Issue #889-Human Trafficking Problem
Dancing the iambic
Othello gets a ballet translation
This weekend's show is a remount from Peterson's 2008 original ballet, which received a nomination for the prestigious Benois de la Danse award.
Using a modern score by prolific soundtrack composer Jerry Goldsmith (from the 1975 film The Wind and the Lion), Peterson's goal was to tell the Moor's infamous story by focusing on the emotional journeys of the four principal characters: Othello, Iago, Desdemona and Cassio.
"I originally was quite a Shakespeare fan, so I was very concerned about the idea of translating such a dense story into movement," Peterson explains. "It was a challenge. I wanted to find a leitmotif for each character, so I spent a lot of time finding what would define each of them."
He describes a passage from act two, scene one where Iago comments on Cassio's gestures to Desdemona in an aside, saying "Yet again your fingers to your lips?"
"I used that as a part of the inspiration for Cassio's movement. There is a whole duet he does with Desdemona where he kisses his fingers to his lips, so that [line] became a core of the movement that he's doing in that scene."
Beyond some of the literal, physical actions that he pulled from the play, there were a few thematic quotes that had to be addressed—especially that of the green-eyed monster. The token metaphor for jealousy has been prevalently used ever since Shakespeare first penned it to show how Iago's plot to destroy Othello rested on the intensity of man's covetous nature.
"I used the green-eyed monster as a point of departure for the idea of using a Greek chorus," he says, adding that it was important to find ways to include more of the corps in the show. "I wanted to create monsters that are manifestations of his subconscious, so the green-eyed monster appears as furies that are manifestations of his own jealousy developing."
As in the Shakespeare version, the show really belongs to the character that's overtaken by even more resentment than Othello in the end: Iago. Played by Alberta Ballet veteran Kelley McKinlay, Iago is a venerable snake of a character, in movement and motivation.
"Kelley is kind of the anchor to the production, because it's as much Iago's ballet as it is Othello's," Peterson notes. Considering McKinlay has been typically cast in more of a hero's role, such as the Elton Fan in Love Lies Bleeding or as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, it was an interesting choice on Peterson's part.
"I know, I was totally casting against type," Peterson admits. "I didn't realize that when I was doing it, but I thought a lot of it had to do with his movement sensibilities because of what I was using as metaphors: they're all moving through a tangled web, and there was the idea of poison from a spider or snake. In exploring those at the beginning, I realized that Kelley was doing exactly what I was striving for because he was able to express my ideas to choreography so beautifully. I really started focusing on him to a great deal."
In Shakespeare's version, Iago gets the last word after Othello—spoiler alert!—strangles Desdemona then offs himself. One wonders if the Bard's darkest villain will get the last dance, too?
Fri, Nov 2– Sat, Nov 3 (7:30 pm)
Jubilee Auditorium, $29 – $106 vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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