“Now Let Us Anatomize Shakespeare: Shakespeare-Inspired Ballets in European Ballet Companies”

Convenor: Adeline Chevrier-Bosseau, University of Paris-Est Créteil

In the wake of the WSC’s seminar on Shakespeare and Dance, this panel will more specifically address ballet adaptations of Shakespeare’s works, from classical ballet productions (Kenneth Mac Millan’s Romeo and Juliet, or Rudolph Nureyev’s subsequent version, or Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) to more contemporary ones (this year’s homage to Shakespeare by the Ballet du Rhin, featuring Ophelia, Madness and Death by Douglas Lee or Fatal, a Macbeth-inspired ballet by Rui Lopes Graça). We shall examine how Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets have been “translated” into dance, and how this process is actually enacted: is it a translation? An adaptation? An interpretation? How does the variety of styles incorporated in the language of ballet – from character dances to group scenes, pantomime, and classic pas de deux – echo the variety of movement (fights, love scenes, dance scenes) and the diversity of the language of Shakespeare’s plays? How are the personalities of Shakespeare’s characters translated into ballet characters? Since dance is a “silent” art, where only the body speaks to music, how has Shakespeare’s text been “anatomized”, how is it performed through the body only?

We will also examine the choice of the musical score, from Prokofiev’s to Mendelssohn, Schubert or Purcell, and how it echoes the drama of the plays.

Another question will be that of the audience, and to what extent these ballets rely – or not – on previous knowledge of Shakespeare’s works: papers focusing on the librettos and their connection to Shakespeare’s works, whether didactic, or allusive, or explanatory, would also be welcome.

The panel would be interdisciplinary, opening a dialogue between Shakespeare scholars and dance scholars, and would function in collaboration with the Shakespeare and Dance project (

Speakers names to follow.