American Repertory Ballet's Premiere of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE Opens This Week
Over lunch with a friend, American Repertory Ballet Artistic Director Douglas Martin was brainstorming about possible full-length ballets to choreograph for his company. His friend made an unusual suggestion: Jane Austen's 1813 novel of manners, Pride and Prejudice.
Five years later, Martin's new ballet Pride and Prejudice will have its world premiere at McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, NJ, on Friday and Saturday, April 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. The ballet will be accompanied by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, which will mark the first time the orchestra will perform at that venue. John Devlin will conduct.
In a recent interview, Martin describes his approach to figuring out the relationships between the characters. "It became evident that there would be four major couples - not just Darcy and Elizabeth. Then it became simple to think about it, because you have the relationship of Elizabeth and Darcy to the other couples. The way it's been done in Hollywood and on TV has been to focus on the main couple's relationship. But the book focuses on the other couples, too." To this day, Pride and Prejudice remains one of the most beloved works of fiction ever written.
More than any other ballet he has choreographed, Pride and Prejudice has given Martin new insights into his craft. "Dance is just a language, right? We use movement to express all the emotions any writer would communicate. What was unusual here was the fact that I wanted to honor social mores in the wonderful Regency period of the ballet. So I wasn't doing a contemporary versions where anything goes. I realize I could still keep that language and those mores intact, even though I'd have to have more physical contact than in a play or film. Because I'm explaining the emotion. The choreography just expresses the emotions those characters are going through."
Sets and costumes for Pride and Prejudice, another key component of the production, are by Christina Giannini. The costumes are meant to showcase the fashions of the English Regency period from 1790 to 1820. The ballet is set to music by Ignaz Playel and includes works by Mendelssohn, Schubert, and John Fields as well.
"It's a great pleasure to perform this world premiere with the world-class Princeton Symphony Orchestra," says Martin. "PSO will bring the score to life and imbue it was the passion and emotion it deserves making an unforgettable experience." Pride and Prejudice, with its drama, romance and comedy, will certainly appeal to first-timers who have never attended a ballet but loved the book and to experienced ballet-goers who expect the highest-caliber choreography and production values.
Photo Credit: Noel Valero
Watch a rehearsal video below: