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Wuthering Heights as Ballet

Posted by Josh Rothman  January 27, 2011 01:56 PM

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From The Brontë Blog comes this article in The Globe and Mail about Nocturnes - a ballet, choreographed by Deborah Dunn, that's based on Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights.

Still from Nocturnes courtesy Trial and Eros.

Dunn uses six dancers to represent, simultaneously, the characters in Wuthering Heights and the members of the Brontë family. Rather than try to communicate the novel's plot through her choreography, she's chosen "rough-hewn, weight-bearing physicality" to embody the novel's web of relationships.

“Getting Bronte’s characters onto the stage proved to be very difficult,” Dunn says. “From specific people, they dissolved into generalized gothic archetypes. I just couldn’t get across the story. I was resorting to pantomime, and those scenes had to go. . . . The more research I did on Wuthering Heights, the more it became clear that it is a long prose poem rather than a novel, that the characters aren’t really characters but ideas. Bronte was playing with stereotypes and archetypes.”

Dunn's previous choreography has been based on T. S. Eliot's "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and "Four Quartets"; her next piece will draw on Virginia Woolf's Orlando. You can watch a clip of "Four Quartets" below. (Needless to say, Dunn is not the first person to approach Wuthering Heights through dance!)

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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