Original Choreography & Direction for Pas de Dieux by Gene Kelly
Additional Choreography & Scenario by Christopher Hampson
Camera, Lights, Action. Scottish Ballet paints the Festival Theatre in the glad rags of old Hollywood with a Parisian flair in an explosive return to the Edinburgh stage after a long-awaited tour. Unbeknownst to many, the old soft shoe himself had a steady footing in the world of French Ballet in the sixties. Entranced by his American Style, Gene Kelly was to work on an original piece for the Paris Opera Ballet, working with Clause Bessy, the Étoile of Paris.
Seeking to uplift Kelly’s jovial Pas de Dieux, Scottish Ballet provide a measure of sophisticated glamour and jazz to the UK premiere production of Starstruck. With the romanticism of studio-era Hollywood, with the elegance and grace of Parisian Ballet, it’s mighty safe to remark on the successful re-emergence of the company into in-person performance. Working closely with Kelly’s widow Patricia Ward Kelly, Scottish Ballet pays tribute to Kelly’s original Pas de Dieux, infusing it with their expected surprise and aptitude.
Often harbouring a dreadfully disguised God-complex, the dual narrative of Starstruck finds a choreographer and star ballerina share their mortal nature with two of Olympus’ hot-headed deities Zeus and Aphrodite. Warming up in a studio in sunny Paris, the company, lead choreographer, Star Ballerina and pianist share in the one thing the Greek gods assigned with their mortal playthings: labours of the heart. Jealousy, lust and adoration all ripple across Starstruck as the fictional company attempt to warm up, rehearse and perform their love story whilst working out a few issues of their own.
Interchanging – audiences are privileged to the variety of the company with alternating principal ballerina’s Sophie Martin, Constance Devernay and Marge Hendrick playing the Star Ballerina/Aphrodite. For the Friday, October 16th performance, the Snow Queen herself Devernay melts away the frost of Scottish Ballet’s previous spectacular production for the warm tones and allure of Aphrodite.
Scottish Ballet’s CEO and principal choreographer Christopher Hampson have endeavoured to mirror Kelly’s original flow of American style with the infusion of jazz and showbiz flair playing directly in Devernay’s strengths. Accuracy is on point, aiding in disguising the lack of a live orchestra performing Gershwin & Chopin, as Devernay coaxing the audience into following her movements and flirtations with Andrew Peasgood and Javier Andreu. Strung up, the playthings of Zeus, the intermittent ‘Acts’ of the production allow Peasgood a reigning moment as the King of the Gods – manipulating the danseurs away from his dear Aphrodite.
Illusions, technique and graft; Liz Brotherston’s design is an inspirational representation of old-fashioned creativity where the wires and strings enhance the overall aesthetic, where lighting and projection serve as soupçon additions rather than shortcuts. Catapulting the dancers into the loft of the stage in a wicker basket with some dainty balloons, to a touching and reminiscent routine with a two-way mirror, Scottish Ballet makes the artform fun again – continuing to unshackle the stuffy façade.
Bursting through the darkness of the theatre, Lawrie McLennan’s lighting design makes a stark statement: Scottish Ballet is back. Tearing open the intimidating film studio doors, allowing the danseurs to wander onto the stage, stretch, reacquaint themselves and prepare for the performance ahead – blazing with an exuberant lustre of style, sass and sparkle.
Never relying on old tricks, Scottish Ballet sees no interest in playing safe with an in-person return. Choosing not to dust off an audience favourite with reliable foundations but continue to pursue creative versatility in infusing contemporary movement and design with the glorious glamour and sophistication of nostalgia.
Starstruck will also be able to stream from November 26th to December 5th here