BWW Review: DANCES PATRELLE Opens Its 26th Repertory Season with Macbeth
Francis Patrelle, who is (remarkably!) celebrating his 45th year as a sought-after dance teacher in New York City, explains in a program note that he decided to bring back his 1995 balletic rendering of Shakespeare's Macbeth because "the story has a lot to tell us about our own times; deep themes of power, corruption and the futility of man which continue to illuminate our existence."
On September 15th 2016, opening night at the Kaye Playhouse in New York City, I saw that Patrelle has indeed succeeded in delivering that dark message in his compelling work set to a judiciously selected mélange of some of Tchaikovsky's most stirring compositions. Click here to watch a delightful and informative video of Patrelle himself explaining his motivation for creating Macbeth and his reason for using the music he chose. He has also listed each composition in the program's libretto and included some quotes from the Shakespeare play. I was charmed by these indications of how seriously he takes his work as a choreographer.
The company has a well-deserved reputation for superb dancing, and this production is no exception. The three witches, who also perform the roles of murderers, were first-rate: Heather Hawk, Nancy Cantino, and Temple Kemezis. Martin Harvey in the title role and Mary Beth Hansohn as Lady Macbeth showed themselves to be accomplished technicians and convincing actors. The rest of the cast was equally impressive, including the children drawn from various NYC ballet schools.
Major kudos also to Set Designer Gillian Bradshaw Smith, Costume Designer Rita B. Watson, and Lighting Designer David Grill. Their combined talents helped Patrelle bring his vision to life. A tip of the hat as well to the unseen heroes, the tech crew headed by Production Stage Manager Sarissa Michand. Transitions in which columns or a giant crown were "flown" happened right on cue, as did all of the scene changes.
One touch that veered perilously close to melodrama was the use of see-through gauze overlays on top of the costumes of the characters who had died, indicating that they had become ghosts. I'll give Patrelle (and Costume Designer Watson) a pass on that one, though. The performers made the conceit work because they are seasoned professionals who never allowed the scenes to turn into giggle-worthy jokes.
An aspect that is not entirely successful, however, is the repeated passing of the crown from one head to another. We get it, OK? Yes, the tale is complicated but the fact that more than one person wants to be king is obvious after the first few crown passings.
Overall, this revival of Patrelle's Macbeth, more than two decades after it premiered, shows that the ballet has stood the test of time and still warrants the praise that Jennifer Dunning wrote in the New York Times in 1995: "Mr. Patrelle gave himself the almost insurmountable challenge of telling a complicated story in movement . . . He succeeds to a surprising extent."
The Macbeth run at the Kaye continues through September 18th. If you've overdosed on tutu ballets, go see this as an antidote. You won't be sorry!
Photograph by Christopher Gagliardi, 2016