American Repertory Ballet (ARB) brings its acclaimed production of Douglas Martin’s full-length ballet, Pride and Prejudice, to the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts for two performances on Friday, March 2, at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, March 3, at 8:00 p.m. Jane Austen’s beloved tale of love, manners, and marriage comes to life in this brand-new story ballet set to the music c of Austrian-born composer Ignaz Pleyel, with costumes tailored to showcase the fashions of the English Regency period from 1790-1820.
“We are thrilled to present this unique production at Annenberg,” says Executive Director Julie Diana Hench, University of Pennsylvania alumni and former principal with Pennsylvania Ballet.”This original full-length story ballet will hopefully engage and delight Philadelphia audiences, and inspire them to take a closer look at all that ARB has to offer.”
Following its critically acclaimed 2017 world premiere production, critic Jerry Hocham in Critical Dance proclaimed, “A new, original full-length story ballet is rare enough, but one based on the classic Jane Austen novel is a particularly ambitious undertaking. That Martin and his company carried it off at all is a monumental achievement, as well as a cause for celebration .. .it’s a must-see for anyone interested in viewing a ballet that’s new and different and extraordinarily ambitious, and that ultimately will prove to be a source of pride for the company.”
ARB Artistic Director Douglas Martin was attracted to Pride and Prejudice for its dramatic quality of conflict and attraction inherent t in the story. “It’s hard to write a great love story, and Pride and Prejudice has many different kinds of relationships at its heart, because of the Bennet sisters. That gives me many lead couples and all kinds of ideas about how people can interact with each other,” says Martin.
“The fact that none of Jane Austen’s stories have been used for a full-length ballet, to my knowledge, made it an attractive challenge,” he adds. Martin hopes this beautiful story will take its place among the great “love story” ballets such as Romeo and Juliet, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.
Martin’s original choreography incorporates period dancing, such as jigs, reels, and the minuet. “When characters are meeting or having a romantic moment, classical ballet is used in the midst of period dance steps, for example, during one of the ballroom scenes,” says Martin. The ballet features sets and costumes by Christina Giannini, whose lush designs are tailored to showcase the fashions of the English Regency Period from 1790-1820.
In an interview for Pointe magazine, Martin explains how he chose the music for the ballet, “No one has written a ballet score for this story, so I needed to find something that was not only beautiful to dance to but also reinforces the libretto. I did some research and found out that Jane Austen collected Schubert and Mendelssohn, and one of her particular favorites, the music of the Austrian-born French composer Ignaz Pleyel.”
Jane Austen’s novel remains one of the most beloved works of fiction ever written. For over 200 years, the story of the proud, rich Mr. Darcy and the independent, free-spirited Elizabeth Bennet continues to entertain and enchant readers. In addition, the numerous film and television adaptations -the 1940 film starring Laurence Olivier; Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC version; the 2005 film starring Keira Knightley -have earned Jane Austen legions of devoted fans across the globe.
Pride and Prejudice appeals to first-timers who have never attended a ballet, to Austen fans who love the book, and to experienced ballet-goers who expect the highest-caliber choreography and production values.
photo credit: Leighton Chen
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