Ballet is storytelling, too

When you think of a storyteller, do you imagine a person sitting at a campfire speaking to an enthralled group? Or a writer putting words on the page?

Have you ever thought about ballet as a form of storytelling? If not, then I encourage you to watch this YouTube video. It’s a broadcast of a rehearsal for Liam Scarlett’s ballet Frankenstein at the Royal Ballet in London. Skip ahead to about the two minute thirty second mark to start the summary of the story and then hear Mr. Scarlett talk about his goals for the ballet before the rehearsal starts.

I first became aware of Liam Scarlett as a choreographer during last year’s World Ballet Day Live event. That’s when top ballet schools around the world open their doors to the cameras and we get to see company class, rehearsals, and interviews with the dancers. The 2015 event included a rehearsal at San Francisco Ballet of Mr. Scarlett’s Fearful Symmetries. I was impressed by Mr. Scarlett’s emphasis on having the dancers bring out the emotions behind the movements. You can see that in this footage of Frankenstein. He keeps asking his dancers to dig deeper to reveal the complex and powerful emotions at work.

What I love about this video is that Mr. Scarlett is trying to depict via movement and facial expressions some of the very same emotions that I try to show in my books. Hope. Despair. Love. He uses the body in conjunction with music, while I work with the more limited resource of words.

While I won’t be choreographing a ballet any time soon, I do think that on rewrites I’ll try to imagine myself as a choreographer like Mr. Scarlett, giving my characters directions on how best to reveal the emotions coming up in the scene. Hopefully this will result in more nuanced body movements from my characters.

If you watch this video, I’d love to know what you think!

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