Anna Karenina Primer
by Karen Kain
November 5, 2018
Throughout my career as both a dancer and Artistic Director, I’ve had the opportunity to perform, explore and stage an incredible variety of ballets by some of the world’s greatest choreographers. And while each of those works means something special to me, I think I’m drawn especially to the ones that tell a story, that compel not just with the brilliant dancing they offer, but with the characters and narratives they embody.
Choreographer John Neumeier
I think that is what lies behind the love I have for John Neumeier’s work. John has choreographed all kinds of ballets, but it is his unparalleled ability to convey character and story in a wholly fresh and inimitable way that makes him such a unique and irreplaceable artist. John understands ballet as theatre, as emotion, and for any who have seen our productions of his adaptations of The Seagull and A Streetcar Named Desire, or his extraordinary Nijinsky, you will know precisely what I mean. Breathtaking, bruising, tender and exhilarating, John’s narrative ballets are among that rare class of works we can only term “unforgettable.”
Adapting Anna Karenina
Adapting a vast and complex novel into an evening-length ballet was an enormous challenge, and John knew his first step in the process would have to be to make the material his own. Using the book more as an inspiration than a strict model, but while keeping the central characters and the principal themes of the book intact, John condensed the book’s narrative, modernized and altered its setting and divided the action into two acts, comprising in total twenty-eight scenes. The result is a theatrical re-imagining of Tolstoy’s book that focuses on the novel’s essential thematic concerns, but which does so elliptically and intuitively and from a modern perspective rather than out of a sense of complete fidelity to the original source. It is, in brief, a poetic distillation of a prose masterwork.
Of course, John is first and foremost a great choreographer, and Anna Karenina is full of some of the finest dancing he has yet made. It’s another luminous example of his astonishing artistry and a work I’m thrilled to be welcoming into our company’s repertoire.
Anna Karenina opens the 2018/19 season and is onstage November 10 – 18, 2018.