Here’s a pro-tip: If you’re gonna be bold enough to bring psychedelics to the ballet*, wait until intermission to eat them if you’re seeing Alexander Ekman’s latest work. The Joffrey Ballet is presenting the North American premiere his full-length piece, Midsummer Night’s Dream, now through May 6, and let’s just say shit gets weird in the second act.
I’ve seen a couple of Ekman’s shorter works with the Joffrey, and they always bring the unexpected, removing rules and preconceptions, and sometimes parts of the stage–literally. Midsummer is really more theater than it is dance, taking that chutzpah and expanding on it, with a little bit of industrial rock concert woven in. The “trailblazing” Swedish choreographer worked with composer Mikael Karlsson for the commissioned score that features indie rock vocalist Anna von Hausswolff. She joins the corp on stage as part of the performance with a bellowing voice that sweetly charms before it haunts.
In short, the feature follows an uproarious festival celebration of the summer solstice into a dream sequence that verges on a trippy nightmare. Imagine one of the wilder parties you’ve been to in your life. Things start off fun and free like a hipster summer bbq, and the next thing you know you’re spinning in a wallpapered room wondering what happened to your pants. The partygoers approach, beckoning you to join their cult/ceremony/ritual thing (as the corp actually comes to the edge of the stage at the end of act one), and you’re all, I’m cool, I’m just gonna go to sleep over here.
And then the dreams come.
A bed floats in the air, tables are levitating, dancers out of form on pointe look more like the creepy girl from The Ring…It’s like a glitchy ballet straight out of the Twilight Zone. A couple of messed up fish turn up for some reason, straw creatures and headless men bound around and by the end it’s a room full of nearly naked bodies thrashing on the floor**. It kinda resembles the party you were just at, if it was on acid.
It’s weird, wild and exhilarating, and totally my kind of party.
*Not that this is something I endorse or encourage, but I can’t tell you what to do or not do.
**Dear People Magazine, next time you’re looking for the “sexiest man alive,” come to the ballet and check out the bod on Fabrice Calmels.