On Friday evening I had the privilege to see Alberta Ballet’s production of Othello. Now, I will state up front that while I really enjoy watching ballet, I have absolutely no technical knowledge. This post is less a review and more a discussion of how the play translates to the wordless medium of dance. And also a chance to talk about how gorgeous the whole production was.
As in the play, the ballet really pivots on Iago and the dancer in the role did not disappoint. I was a little concerned as Iago’s primary tool in his quest to bring down Othello is his words and I wasn’t sure how that would come across in dance. But the ballet did it brilliantly, giving Iago such sinuous movements, a costume that dripped villainy without being over the top, and the stage presence of Iago himself was truly brilliant. His opening solo was fascinating to watch and whether he was dancing or malevolently lurking at the edges of the stage his performance was riveting.
With my focus predominantly on Iago, I’ll simply say that Desdemona, Othello, and Emilia were all as they should be with lovely performances. In terms of performance, the highlights for me were, as mentioned above, anything that involved Iago and the great swordfight between Cassio and Roderigo. Ballet and swordfighting is always a good time.
Now on to the pretty. The costumes for production were amazing, with my particular favourites being Emilia’s great dress which reflects her marriage to Iago and yet also implies her innocence in all his plotting and Desdemona’s night gown (and that gorgeous robe). The stage design was beautiful, clearly evoking northern Africa. But the real show-stopper was the bedroom set for the final scenes. With a rich red curtain as the dominant backdrop that pooled on the floor beneath that fateful bed and beautiful lanterns hanging in the foreground, there couldn’t be a more fitting design for a death scene.
Impressively reflecting the narrative of the original text, Alberta Ballet’s production of Othello was a thoroughly enjoyable evening (even with the tragic ending).