Monday, March 5, 2012

Your Daily Dose of Shakespeare and Ballet

By Katie Brown, Sales Associate

“The stage is not merely the meeting place of all the arts, but is also the return of art to life” – Oscar Wilde

Art is not just for those who love to act, sing, or dance. It is meant for everyone to learn from and enjoy. Just like the TV series we ritually set our DVR’s to, ballets and plays are relevant to today’s life situations and serve as tools to educate ourselves on human nature.

Unfortunately, it’s commonly thought that ballets are just for dance lovers and Shakespeare is only for die hard thespians. How are we supposed to grow as artists if we only focus on one form? How are we supposed to grow as individuals if we completely ignore art and what each medium has to offer?

Chicago has a fantastic opportunity this spring to experience the grace and technique of ballet with the emotions and drama we know and love about Shakespeare. The American Ballet Theatre will be performing Giselle March 22-25 at the Auditorium Theatre. Of course, you are all thinking “this girl is obsessed with dance, so of course she’s going to suggest I go see a ballet.” To be quite honest, despite my 19 years of dance training, there is nothing more thrilling to me than to see one of Shakespeare’s plays.

Shakespeare’s plays live on today, not just on the main stage and through ballets, but through our TV screens. Most of these exciting Shakespearian themes have been used as parodies in your favorite TV shows. For example, the love affair between Hamlet and Ophelia is a common unrequited love story we’ve seen many times. Even Claudius’ betrayal to his family is another theme that our favorite dramas draw upon to create tension and suspense. And the idea of seeking forgiveness at the end of a tragic event is very popular among our addictive police, hero, and action TV series.

Giselle carries these same features. It is the story of forbidden love, tragedy, and forgiveness. This story, originally written by French writer Theophile Gautier, truly questions the meaning and importance of love and expresses themes relevant to today’s society. The first act shows the audience two young lovers, whose relationship is forbidden. Giselle is madly in love with a young man named Albrecht. Through many secret meetings and intimate moments, Giselle couldn’t be happier that she’s found the love of her life. However, Giselle discovers Albrecht has many of his own secrets: he is a prince and he is engaged to another woman. Broken hearted, we (the audience) are left breathless as we watch Giselle slip into madness and die. This death scene is one of the most famous scenes in ballet, not only because Giselle’s character is similar to that of the mad Ophelia, but because it is the perfect example of a dancer fully embracing her character to convey a specific emotion to the audience.

In the second act, we see the hopeless Giselle coping with her broken heart in the afterlife. Despite how much Prince Albrecht hurt her, Giselle finds it in her heart and soul to forgive him. She saves him from an exhausting and tormenting death, proving to the audience that love conquers all.

These ideas of love, loss, and forgiveness are aspects we see in everyday life. So, why is it less common to make an outing to see them in a ballet?

As a sales associate, some of the responses I have received are, “I don’t understand ballet” or “I don’t know the story.” With plays, audience members are blessed to have verbal dialogue as their guide to understanding what is happening on stage. It’s a common belief that at a ballet the audience members, who are unfamiliar with the plot, are forced to rely on the plot summary in their playbill.

Like actors, dancers are not just bringing the art to the audience; they bring life to the story. Dancers are actors. Through movement, facial expressions, and gestures, the dancers are telling a story just like the actors, and it’s a story we can all relate to: falling in love, losing someone we care about, and finding in our hearts the ability to forgive regardless of how much we were hurt in the past. The only difference between a ballet and a play is the mode of communication. Actors speak and dancers move.

Audience members will only gain by attending a ballet. Your experiences and insights will be the same as attending a play, but you will be opened up to a new form of art, growing not just as an audience member, but as an artistic individual. And no, you don’t need 10 years of performance experience under your belt to be involved in the arts community.

Art is a necessary part of living. I encourage you to take the time and see Giselle March 22-25. I want you to allow yourself to relish in each movement. Enwrap yourself in every smile, turn, leap, tear, and gesture. Giselle is the best way to experience the elements of dance and theatre in one performance, powerfully showing the meaning of love. Allow yourself to bring art to life.

For subscriptions or groups of 10 plus, please call 312.431.2357.

For single tickets, visit

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