The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 30.049 Saturday, 9 February 2019
Date: February 9, 2019 at 7:59:57 AM EST
Subject: What if Shakespeare’s Dark Lady Told Their Love Story? What if It Were a Ballet?
From The New York Times: Nashville Ballet’s “Attitude: Lucy Negro Redux,” started as poetry. A creative team that includes Rhiannon Giddens is bringing it to the stage.
What if Shakespeare’s Dark Lady Told Their Love Story? What if It Were a Ballet?
By Tariro Mzezewa
Feb. 5, 2019
When Caroline Randall Williams’s book of poetry “Lucy Negro, Redux” was published in 2015, she hoped its words would transcend the pages on which they were printed. But she said she never imagined that the book would be turned into a ballet.
Paul Vasterling, the artistic director at Nashville Ballet, based in the Tennessee city that is also Ms. Williams’s hometown, read the book in 2016 and knew immediately that he wanted to adapt it for the stage. “The images the book pulled up for me are very dancelike,” Mr. Vasterling said. “Poetry is close to dance because it’s open to interpretation, and you bring yourself to it.”
“Lucy Negro, Redux” tells the story of a slice of Shakespeare’s love life from the perspective of the so-called Dark Lady for whom many of his sonnets were written. Some scholars and readers, including Ms. Williams, believe that the Dark Lady was Dark Luce or Lucy Negro — not just a woman with dark eyes and hair, but a black woman who owned a brothel in London.
In the ballet, “Attitude: Lucy Negro Redux,” which is to have its premiere on Friday in Nashville, Ms. Williams’s poetry is both script and part of the music. She will read some poems onstage, including a sequence that Mr. Vasterling said inspired a danced montage of Lucy’s past, her life as a prostitute, her struggles and, finally, her claiming of her own power. A pas de deux with Lucy and Shakespeare was inspired by a section of the book called “Happy Duet of Lucy and Shakespeare.”
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When Ms. Williams was first approached by Mr. Vasterling about making her book a ballet, she was interested but had one important question for him: “Do you have a dancer that makes sense?”
“And by that,” she said, “I meant: Do you have a world class woman of color?”
He had the perfect dancer — Ms. Rowser, who had more than a decade of experience and several principal roles under her belt, including Odette/Odile in “Swan Lake” and Aurora in “The Sleeping Beauty.”
With the lead role filled, Ms. Williams and Mr. Vasterling had to make some choices about music. Ms. Williams had one person in mind: Ms. Giddens. The two had met years before and had been itching to collaborate.
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