The world premiere of Anne of Green Gables – The Ballet™ is September 28, 2019. CBJ brings you behind the ballet with CBJ Artistic Director Bengt Jörgen in this interview about his inspiration, the work of creating a new full-length ballet, and what audiences can expect from this first-ever full-length balletic rendition of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s iconic Canadian story of Anne of Green Gables.
“Anne of Green Gables is just a great story. We realized there has never been a full-length classical ballet created on this story and felt that we’re the perfect company to do it.”
How long have you had the idea to create Anne of Green Gables – The Ballet™?
On and off I’ve had the idea for about a decade, but I seriously started looking into it in early 2016. That is when I started the process of seeing what was required to obtain the intellectual property rights to do this work.
Why did you decide to create a ballet based on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novel, Anne of Green Gables?
Canada’s Ballet Jörgen is focused on a few core principals. We always focus on doing works by Canadian artists and telling Canadian stories. As we have increasingly focused on recreating classics into a Canadian context, the next logical step was for us to do a full-length classic that was a Canadian story, and really, Anne of Green Gables is the quintessential Canadian story. Coupled with that, for the past decade we have focused on building a national organization on regional foundations. We want our programs to reflect the regions that we are based in and that support us. Atlantic Canada was our first hub out of Halifax. We feel that it is time to tell a great Canadian story from the Atlantic region. There are other great stories from Atlantic Canada, but really Anne of Green Gables tops them all in terms of name recognition and identifiable qualities with Atlantic Canada. At the same time, Anne of Green Gables is just a great story. We realized there has never been a full-length classical ballet created on this story and felt that we’re the perfect company to do it.
What can audiences expect from your version of Anne and her story?
They’ll recognize Anne from the book as a really strong female character. We’ll be able to speak to a lot of the emotions that Anne displays. In dance we can effectively show things that are sometimes a little harder when you deal with words. In this case, I think we’re really going to focus the story on the beautiful environment that she lives in. On stage, we’ll be able to bring to life all the things in Prince Edward Island that come to life in Anne’s imagination. We hope it will be entertaining, lighthearted, quick-paced, and full of life.
“We hope we can make people feel enriched by bringing another great story to life through the medium of dance.”
What goes into creating a new full-length ballet?
In this case, the story already exists which makes it easier because we don’t have to write the story. At the same time, it won’t be exactly like the book; you have to adapt the story to create the synopsis. Those of us creating the synopsis have to pull out certain things that we can provide a unique perspective on through dance. The score will be orchestrated from Anne of Green Gables – The Musical®, so we also have to be cognitive of the fact that the flow of the story has to fit with the music. We have a team of three people: myself, Heinar Piller, and Sue LePage, who worked for about six to seven months to create a synopsis that works really well.
By the time the work premieres in September, we will have spent roughly three years working out all the various details: preparing the synopsis; recording the music; creating new scores for orchestras playing it live; designing costumes; testing sets with the dancers; and of course, creating the work with the dancers, which comes at the end of the creative process because you need all of these other elements before you start creating the work. We’re just about to launch into the major creative part— although we’ve already tested some of our ideas in the studios to see how they work with the dancers— but the major part will start May 1 and will go until the premiere on September 28.
What do you hope this ballet will bring to audiences?
I’m hoping it will engage people. I want people to see the story through dance in a way that makes them go: “Wow, that’s really great. I hadn’t expected to see the story come alive in this way.” I want people to understand that our medium is a great medium to tell stories. We want to share this story with a lot of people. We’re a unique dance company because the audiences that mainly come to see us are new to dance. We attract people who, in many cases, have not been to a theatre. Certainly, we want to share this story as an arts project with people that may have never come in touch with the performing arts before and who may have never come in touch with the story before.
We also hope to spark an interest in Lucy Maud Montgomery amongst a lot of young people and to continue to be part of a process that celebrates a time and place in Canada at the beginning of the twentieth century that talks about things that are very human and important—things that make people both laugh and cry. We hope we can make people feel enriched by bringing another great story to life through the medium of dance.
Anne of Green Gables – The Ballet™ premieres September 28, 2019 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. For more information visit our Anne page and look for updates in our monthly Anne Newsletter.
Written by Victoria Campbell Windle, CBJ Communications Contributor.
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