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Classic story of ‘Great Gatsby’ to be told through choreography

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BalletMet's production of "The Great Gatsby" brings F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel to life. Performances run Friday through Feb. 14.

BalletMet’s production of “The Great Gatsby” brings F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel to life. Performances run Friday through Feb. 14. Credit: Courtesy of BalletMet

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Great American Novel” is renowned for its depiction of excess’ ugliness, but it’s now taking shape in a medium notorious for graceful beauty.

Since being revived for the first time since its successful 2009 debut, BalletMet’s new production of “The Great Gatsby” will be hitting the stage at Capitol Theatre starting this Friday, through Feb. 14.

The ballet is based on the 1925 novel of the same title about millionaire Jay Gatsby and his dysfunctional romance with former flame Daisy Buchanan.

Choreographed by BalletMet dancer Jimmy Orrante, the show holds true to the original story, despite the challenges faced in telling it through dance.

“Telling the story of Jay Gatsby without words, with just music and movement is a challenge. But between the dancers, the set and the costumes, there will be no questioning the story we’re trying to tell,” said BalletMet communications manager, Ann Mulvany.

Mulvany said Orrante was so focused on staying true to the book that he had a language arts teacher sit down with the dancers to discuss their characters.

“The teacher sat down with each of them individually to talk about how they saw their character and techniques they could use to bring them to life without speaking,” she said.

“Gatsby” is set in the Jazz Age, and most of the dancing incorporated into the performance is centered around music of the 1920s.

“There was a lot of inspiration that came from period music,” Mulvany said. “There is some traditional ballet in the show, but there is also a lot of the Charleston and the Foxtrot.”

There are changes that have been made to the original 2009 production, with the biggest changes happening in the costume department.

Costume shop manager Erin Rollins said everything is going to be more colorful this time around.

“At the big Gatsby party, all the costumes were black and grey back in 2009. This was a deliberate style choice, but this time we’ve added pops of color everywhere to set a very different-looking and more fun scene,” she said.

For the dancers at BalletMet, “The Great Gatsby” is a more modern story than they’re used to telling, and Rollins said that might lure more people into becoming interested in ballet.

“You don’t see 1920s costumes or dancing in ballet that often,” she said. “It’s fun and energetic to watch, and I think the audience will be pleasantly surprised. You don’t really have to like ballet to like this show.”

“The Great Gatsby” is slated to hit the stage Friday, with performances through Feb. 14.

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