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A Midsummer Night's Dream.

John Neumeier's version of Shakespeare's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream has proved a popular success wherever it has been performed since its creation in 1977 for his Hamburg Ballet. Neumeier has a predilection for literary themes but does not aim for a literal translation into dance.

In this ballet he makes a decisive change of accent from the original play: Hippolyta is a young lady of the romantic age, the time of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, whose famous music Neumeier uses for the world of the young lovers. During the ceremonial preparations on the eve of her wedding, Hippolyta receives no more than the attentions prescribed by decorum from Theseus, who shows more interest in a young court lady. The contrast of her situation to the sincere, tender love between her friend Hermia and Lysander, a young gardener, leaves Hippolyta in a pensive mood.

In her dream, Hippolyta becomes Titania and Theseus, Oberon. Her first pas de deux with him is a psychological reflection of her unadmitted doubts, hopes, and passion. With a transition from Mendelssohn to the spheric sounds of Gyorgi Ligeti, Neumeier's choreographic style changes from the classical idiom (with Petipa and Bournonville quotations) to modernist, athletic movement, partly in extreme slow motion to evoke an unreal world with snakelike creatures.

Unaware of the magic, a group of comic craftsmen intrude with clumsily angular movements and simple melodies played on a barrel organ. The two young couples have their familiar bewildering encounters, again enclosed by their own music. Only Puck moves freely between these worlds, enjoying his mischievous meddling.

Neumeier has carefully balanced the comic with touches of psychological insight to give his characters human verity and the happy ending some emotional truth. With backdrops, a few props, and ingenious lighting, Jurgen Rose's designs allow for easy transitions.

Bavarian National Ballet presented two separate casts. The first included Judith Turos (as Hippolyta-Titania), Kirill Melnikov (Theseus-Oberon), Kiki Lammersen (Helena), Christina McDermott (Hermia), Norbert Graf (Demetrius), Oliver Wehe (Lysander), and Wes Chapman (Master of Ceremonies--Puck), all of whom gave delightful, technically polished performances, bringing out the wit in each of their roles. In a way, though, I preferred the second cast, with Lammersen and Wehe, Tina-Kay Bohnstedt and Anna Villadolid, Udo Kersten and Patrick Teschner, and Mark Pace. Though technically not quite as brilliant, they brought charm and freshness to their interpretations, especially Villadolid (as Helena) and Pace (as Puck).
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Title Annotation:National Theatre, Munich, Germany
Author:Zurner, Inge
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Mar 1, 1994
Previous Article:Peggy Baker.
Next Article:Wind.

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