Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Carol Ann Duffy & BalletLORENT Create a Spellbinding Rapunzel

I mentioned this contemporary ballet production briefly on Facebook a while back but it keeps appearing in the news - with good reason, so it's about time I wrote a proper post.

More and more positive critical response is appearing as people see BalletLORENT's new full-length work, Rapunzel (currently on tour in the UK). They're also taking note of the star-studded creative team aboard this project as well (finally!).

There was a considerable period of research time spent during the creation of Rapunzel, in conjunction with the world-famous Sadlers Wells Ballet Company and the project attracted some diverse world class talent as a result. BalletLORENT has a very good reputation in contemporary dance circles but beyond that the production boasts the talents of:

  • Carol Ann Duffy  - multi-award winning poet, writer and playwright as well as having been appointed British poet laureate in 2009 (and whom should be known specifically to regular blog readers here for her work with fairy tales)
  • Murray Gold - composer for Doctor Who
  • Michele Clapton - costume designer for Game of Thrones
  • Lesley Sharp - award winning British actress for film and TV (she is Narrator for the ballet)
  • Phil Eddolls -  Commonwealth and Olympic Games set designer
And many more..! (You can see the full creative contributors HERE.)
Take a look at the promo video. It's beautiful, unusual and interesting.
✒ ✒ ✒  ✒ (click the "Read more" link below this line) ✒ ✒ ✒ ✒ ✒ 

Liv Lorent (Artistic Director of BalletLorent) was originally invited by the Artistic Director of the Sadlers Wells Ballet to update/modernize a fairy tale and, while immediately enthusiastic about the idea, it took Ms. Lorent a while to find a fairy tale she resonated with. When she eventually read the Grimm's Rapunzel, with the themes of motherhood and pregnancy, it spoke to her personally, being a new(ish) mother herself, and it's this that she took to Ms. Duffy for modernizing.
“I think because of my age, I’m 41, lots of my friends and colleagues are in their late 30s and early 40s and thinking about having a child. 
“For a lot of us it’s not always easy and there is a lot of heartache that goes with that. 
“In Rapunzel, her parents have longed for another child but are fooled by a witch into trading her for what turns out to be a vegetable baby. 
“I felt sympathy for the witch, a woman who couldn’t have children and wanted one so badly she practically stole one.
“That’s terrible, but both the wife and the witch are basically just two women who wanted a child.”
Meeting Carol Ann Duffy, the poet laureate who was later asked to rewrite the story for the show, Liv told her about the women’s unspoken longing, unsaid in the story. 
“After the witch steals the baby, you never hear of the parents again,” said Liv.
“Carol Ann and I started talking about the present tragedy of the parents of Madeleine McCann, searching and trying to find their daughter any way they can. You wouldn’t stop looking, would you?
“So we absorbed Rapunzel's parents’ story into ours.”

While the ballet is family friendly, this isn't a version of Tangled. It reflects on the plot and themes of the Grimm telling and considered "darker" than the current impression people have of the Rapunzel fairy tale. Nonetheless, it is a production families are encouraged to attend and young local ballet students are recruited at each performing location, to take part in one of the scenes.

There is narration during the ballet too, an aspect Lorent included to make things as clear as possible for youngsters, and to give the feel of a storyteller telling a bedtime story:
She explained: “I remembered, even though I’ve grown up and trained in ballet all my life, that frequently as a child – and a grown-up – I'd be bemused by the mime. I often found it baffling and didn’t 'get' the story. 
“So as a 21st century audience member, I thought why not have a proper bedtime story with a narrator’s voice coming in to put you absolutely on track with the story.” 
Even before Liv had her son and became a regular at family shows, she wanted to be able to appeal to all the different ages in that audience. 
“I discovered how nice it is to go with several generations of the family to see something together. 
“There isn’t much – especially dance – that you can take both granny and kids to see. If you can, it means you can avoid babysitter charges too,” laughed Liv.
“I wanted to do something that had impact emotionally on grown-ups, but that also kept my child entertained too.”

One review by The Guardian focuses on details that illustrate the adult appeal as opposed to the children's but does summarize by saying that Lorent is clever at telling the story on multiple levels, resulting in the fact that:
"...this Rapunzel comes close to being a genuine all-ages show."
(You can read specific details of the show mentioned by the Guardian HERE.)

With regard to the original look of the dancers, apparently, costume designer extraordinaire* Michele Clapton loves dance and, despite being in demand and well booked with projects, made room to work on Rapunzel, taking on the very different challenge of designing costumes for BalletLORENT's "artistic athletes". The results are stunning, original and require dancers to be on their toes, so to speak, so it's no surprise that the physical demands of the ballet, particularly with regard to the costumes, has come up in the news more than once.

No wonder Rapunzel director Liv Lorent pays tribute to her dancers – the amazing costumes, set and hair mean they risk doing themselves an injury if they aren’t careful! 
“I’m so grateful to them,” said Liv 
“The hoop dresses take negotiation to work with. The steel set means you have to know what you are doing or you will get a bruise, the music and narration are great, but you have to be bang on with your timing or you will miss the cue. 
“And for the dancer who plays Rapunzel, it’s one thing for me to ask her to do big backbends. 
“But there’s a lot of technical work to make sure that what looks like a beautiful effect doesn’t mean the dancer ending up with a black eye!”
It sounds like a collaborative dream - not just from an artistic point of view, but also from a point of view of encouraging family togetherness in attending live theater/dance and in presenting children with an excellently produced work of fine art that's specifically accessible to them and encourages interest in both fairy tales and art.

But there's even more good news - this amazing creative collaboration is just the beginning:
She explained: “It was Murray and Carol Ann’s idea that we should do a trilogy of fairy tales, so we’ll be doing preparation for another one for next year with the final one the year after. 
“So now I’m on the hunt for the next story!”
How awesome is that?! It's like there's a mini "fairy tale renaissance" in contemporary dance at the moment! *delighted jig*

I just have one question: when will it be touring overseas? More specifically, when will I get a chance to see it?

Sources: HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE & from the official website HERE.

*If you haven't seen Michele Clapton's work for Game of Thrones I highly recommend you take an extra 5-10 minutes and go look at her work HERE and in more detail HERE. Even if you don't like, or have any interest in the HBO series, you'll be blown away at how stunning her creations are, especially with regard to the embroidered details. 

1 comment:

  1. Love this re-telling and so fed-up I missed the Doncaster shows!! eek.