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Harvard Ballet Company goes with “Gatsby”

You’ve read the book and seen the movie, but have you seen it as a dance? Scott F. Fitzgerald’s classic American novel The Great Gatsby comes to life on the Farkas Hall with the Harvard Ballet Company. I spoke with Michelle Luo ’15, co-director of the company, about the process of bringing the words on a page to movement on the stage.
What was the process of choosing to pursue The Great Gatsby as inspiration for the piece?
Bridget (Scanlon ’15) and I were very excited about the idea of creating a continuous cohesive show, which is part of why we chose to base this show on a piece of literature. The Great Gatsby stood out to us as a very classic piece of text that also contained a good deal of vivid imagery, themes, and motifs that could inspire the choreographers for our show.
What was the process of blending the literature with dance?
We wanted this entire process to be of a very collaborative nature, and we were very lucky to have worked with so many talented artists to make this happen, including the choreographers, the dancers,and of course Sam Clark ’15, who plays our narrator Nick Carraway. When you see the show, you will hopefully notice that we worked carefully to pull passages from the novel that would tie the story of the show together as well as to incorporate Sam in and out of the dance pieces throughout.
Where else have you drawn inspiration on?
Many of the choreographers in this show drew inspiration from their own sources. For example, Michael Johnson’s piece Elations and Sorrows borrows heavily from the movement of jazz performers of the ’20s, in particular Cab Calloway.
How has the experience been both choreographing and performing in the piece?
It’s definitely a balancing act, but incredibly rewarding. Not only do we get to perform and work alongside amazing choreographers and dancers in fulfilling their artistic visions, but also to create our own and see them come to life.
4) What’s up next for the Ballet Company?
We actually have another first coming up in February – the Ivy Ballet Exchange, a joint performance with Columbia Ballet Collaborative and Princeton University Ballet at Miller Theatre in New York City. We’re very much looking forward to this opportunity to expand our horizons by collaborating with these two amazing companies. In addition, we’ll be hosting our annual spring performance in Harvard Dance Center April 5-6. That performance is still in the works, so it’ll be something to look forward to!

Gatsby will be performed through Nov. 16.

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