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Dances Patrelle's Macbeth a Dark & Deadly Delight

by Taylor Gordon
September 18, 2016
Kaye Playhouse
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
(212) 772-4448
The best part of Dances Patrelle’s production of Macbeth is when somebody dies.

Seriously. The dramatic ballet performed the evening of September 17 at The Kaye Playhouse is strongest in the darkest moments of Shakespeare’s plot centered on power. Led by artistic director/choreographer Francis Patrelle, the company celebrated its 26th season of bringing drama through dance with this ballet choreographed in 1995.

Mr. Patrelle introduces the audience to the regal characters one by one in the opening scene as dancers appear from behind floor-to-ceiling panels. These panels re-appear throughout the ballet sometimes to mask entrances and occasionally to get in the way of big movements. A large crown is lowered to the stage and the dancers circle it with high legs and energetic leaps. Their desire for power is immediately evident and the crown becomes an easy symbol used throughout the work.

In the next scene the three witches appear, led by a wonderfully wicked Heather Hawk. Student dancers follow seamlessly and foaming cauldron appears center stage. Hawk drops the crown into the cauldron with a perfect “plink” of Tchaikovsky’s symphony.

The storytelling and dancing are fine through Act I, but the notable part comes in the scene where Lady Macbeth (Mary Beth Hansohn) convinces her husband Macbeth (Martin Harvey) to kill King Duncan (Roberto Leon) and take his crown. The couple dances and Macbeth tries to stop his wife from reaching for the crown repeatedly. After a few minutes she turns to her sexuality to get her way, wrapping her leg around Macbeth in an attitude front, her hips pressed close to his and her arms holding him tight. He melts in her sensuality, grabs his sword, and runs to stab King Duncan in the back.

The King catches him with a most powerful chord of music. This is the moment Mr. Patrelle’s choreography is at its best – when there's a perfect marriage of movement, music and drama. The steps serve a purpose. When King Duncan is finally dying, Lady Macbeth spins with ferocity and runs to the bed where he lies to finish him off. Hansohn turns into a whole different dancer than the first part of the ballet. She owns the role.

In the slower pas de deux that follows, Macbeth continues to push her out of the way almost flailing her to the side in angst with what he had just done. But then she throws him aggressively to the floor. She pushes the King off the bed and wears his crown. The symbols crashing as she kicks and arches deepen the intensity of the moment. And the act ends with her passionately taking her top down (facing upstage) with Macbeth bowing to her chest in lust.

This moment is the climax of the ballet, but later moments of tragic death in act 2 also stand out. When Hawk stabs Banquo (Stephen Campanella), the young Finn Duggan as Fleance has expressive use of his shoulders and head. She later kills Young Macduff (William Woodward) and his mother (the lovely Therese Miyoshi Wendler) with satisfied malice. Lady Macbeth’s death scene is less loud in terms of both music and violence, but the use of white shrouds for the dead characters is effective.

All of the steps in these episodes serve a storytelling purpose, which is essential in conveying a story as dark as Macbeth through movement. Though most of his talented cast die by the end, Patrelle stays strong with this work.
Cast of Dances Patrelle's 'Macbeth.'

Cast of Dances Patrelle's "Macbeth."

Photo © & courtesy of Christopher Gagliardi


Martin Harvey as Macbeth and Mary Beth Hansohn as Lady Macbeth in Dances Patrelle's 'Macbeth.'

Martin Harvey as Macbeth and Mary Beth Hansohn as Lady Macbeth in Dances Patrelle's "Macbeth."

Photo © & courtesy of Christopher Gagliardi


[center] Martin Harvey as Macbeth and Mary Beth Hansohn as Lady Macbeth in Dances Patrelle's 'Macbeth.'

[center] Martin Harvey as Macbeth and Mary Beth Hansohn as Lady Macbeth in Dances Patrelle's "Macbeth."

Photo © & courtesy of Christopher Gagliardi


Cast of Dances Patrelle's 'Macbeth.'

Cast of Dances Patrelle's "Macbeth."

Photo © & courtesy of Christopher Gagliardi

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