An original ballet by Francis Patrelle adapted from the play by William Shakespeare
September 15, 2016
A balletic retelling, Dances Patrelle sets Shakespeare’s Macbeth to a recorded, patchwork score by Tchaikovsky. In the early scenes, performances are pale with repetitious choreography but the work picks up steam as it progresses with fine intensity from Mary Beth Hanson as Lady Macbeth and Martin Harvey as Macbeth, especially in their Act 2, Scene 3 pas de deux. Maximillian Brand as Macduff and Lady Macduff, danced by Therese Wendler, also do a good job of conveying emotion with Ms. Wendler’s strong arabesque displayed to full advantage. The three witches flitter and flap around in greenish-purple robes—it’s less “something wicked this way comes” and more some flighty presences in odd headdresses waving their arms and legs. Towards the end of the work, the hand gestures of Heather Hawk, one of the witches, was more disturbing than the frightening portrayal of the unconscious temptation to evil as the Bard interpreted the weird sisters.
Using gauzy “ponchos” to indicate the presence of the ghost of a character is effective, particularly in the Dunsinane banquet scene when Banquo (Stephen Campanella) appears, chastising Macbeth for his terrible deeds. Costumes, by Rita B. Watson, are often elaborate and help bring the characters to life with a few neat tricks including “tree suits” for the soldiers who hold branches to show us how Birnam (not Bimam as it reads here and there in the program) Wood moves to Dunsinane.
Overall, the production is good but can’t aspire to greatness because Patrelle is limited by the abilities of his dancers. At times genuine emotion flares but other instances are flatter. The sets, painted cloth panels lowered and raised as desired, are effective although the stele with hieroglyphics, echoed in several scenes, didn’t make much sense to me.
Francis Patrelle, Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer of Dances Patrelle, has created dozens of ballets, including an entire series based upon the American Songbook, many of them for the greatest dancers of our age, including prima ballerina Cynthia Gregory. Mr. Patrelle has also choreographed extensively for opera and his body of work includes over 50 original ballets choreographed for Dances Patrelle, and spans an incredibly wide range of styles. Mr. Patrelle is also a teacher, on the faculty of Manhattan School of Music since 1981 as well as at Ballet Academy East, where he is Director of Choreographic Development. Students in Macbeth come from Ballet Academy East, Manhattan Youth Ballet and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT.