A balletic 'Streetcar' pulls into Tampa

The Scottish Ballet brings its dance version of the classic to the Straz Center

mclear@bradenton.comOctober 10, 2013 

The Scottish Ballet present's "A Streetcar Named Desire," Sunday at the Straz Center. PUBLICITY PHOTO

It would seem to be an unnatural pairing. Tennessee Williams' monumental play "A Streetcar Named Desire" is quintessentially American, very much grounded in New Orleans, and the power of its story and its characters belie the delicate and intricate beauty of its language.

So to hear of a ballet version of "Streetcar" seems incongruous, and to hear that's it's done by a the national classical ballet company of Scotland seems incomprehensible.

But the Scottish Ballet's evening-length staging of "A Streetcar Named Desire," which comes to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa on Sunday, has been acclaimed in Europe and was well-received in its American debut Oct. 4 in New Orleans.

"There is only one word spoken in this ballet," Chris Hampson, the artistic director of the Scottish Ballet, said in a phone interview from the countryside near Glasgow. "As you can imagine, that one word is 'Stella,' shouted by Stanley."

Ballet isn't an ideal medium for storytelling, but Hampson said that despite its near-total wordlessness, the narrative of this "Streetcar" is easy to follow.

"It's a wonderful mix of theatricality and dance." He said. "I think this adaptation demonstrates a really good understanding of the text."

One reason it's been so successful, Hampson said, is that it's a collaborative creation by choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and theater director Nancy Meckler, who's best known for her work with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

"I think it's Nancy's eye that has steered the action," Hampson said.

The story and the dance are set to an original, jazz-influenced score by Peter Salem.

This isn't the first time "A Streetcar Named Desire" has been turned into ballet. North Carolina Dance Theatre brought its respected version to the Mahaffey Theatre in St. Petersburg in 2003, and still performs it as part of its repertoire. There have been several other "Streetcar" ballets, too.

And of course, a lot of people have seen or read the play, or Elia Kazan's film version with Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh, and know the story.

"It's a play that's studied, certainly in America, but increasingly in Great Britain," Hampson said. "But even though 'A Streetcar Named Desire' is a very famous story, there are some who don't know it. We have to tell the story in way that those people will follow it."

Observers have noted that this production does maintain the integrity of the story, and that the grace, power and brutality of the play characters translates well to ballet.

The Scottish Ballet was founded in 1957 and includes 26 dancers, most of whom have made the trip to the United States for the current tour.

Details: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 13, Carol Morsani Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. Tickets: $35-$74.50 plus service charge. Information: 813-229-7827, www.strazcenter.org.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service