By Alison Baumgartner
The beloved novel Anne of Green Gables is synonymous with an adventurous spirit, open heart and love for imagination. These qualities and more come to life in the first-ever licensed ballet of the classic tale, which comes to The Lincoln Center Oct. 16 on its world tour premiere.
“When you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worthwhile,” Anne tells Matthew Cuthbert, her adoptive father when she first meets him in the novel. Instead of a poor orphan’s dress that attracts pitying looks on the train, she pretends she is in a fine silk gown which garners their attention instead. It’s in this vein of making something worth imagining that Canada’s Ballet Jörgen turns this story into a rich, vibrant dance that celebrates her creativity in new and fantastic ways.
“Ballet offers a new opportunity to express Anne’s imagination in a way that cannot be done in other forms,” says Sue LaPage, the set designer for the Ballet.
“Anne constantly talks emphatically about nature,” continues LaPage. “She gives cherry trees names and absolutely delights in the world around her. She can’t speak those things in the ballet, but she can dance them. When Anne imagines things around her, nature comes to life.”
Director of Canada’s Ballet Jörgen, Bengt Jörgen agrees: “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.” The end result is a ballet and a story that is “entertaining, lighthearted, quick-paced, and full of life.”
For Hanna Mae Cruddas, playing Anne is very exciting. She still has a treasured Anne doll she got on Prince Edward Island as a young girl. Indeed, she has taken on the role of the animated Anne with gusto, rereading all the books and dogearing every page that describes how Anne moves so she can bring the character to life.
All of these elements also lead to a physically demanding show. “It’s tough, for sure because Anne is very buoyant and light and happy,” says Cruddas. “She also has all of these swings to her emotions. She goes from what she calls ‘the depths of despair’ to being as ecstatic as she could possibly be.”
But it’s not just Anne’s imagination and energy that endears her to audiences. It’s her quick wit and way with words. “People laugh at me because I use big words,” Anne says in the book. “But if you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?”
To Cruddas, how Anne speaks is an important element of her character. “She’s such a beautiful wordsmith,” says Cruddas. Finding the right movements to express Anne’s words has been Cruddas’ favorite part of the process. Along with Anne’s imagination, Cruddas says that “audiences will fall deeper into the world of Anne, Green Gables and Avonlea because they’ll be able to see all these elements amplified on the stage.”
Jörgen concurs: “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.’” More importantly, he wants audiences to understand that ballet “is a great medium to tell stories.”
By the time this world premiere tour stops in Fort Collins, Canada’s Ballet Jörgen will have spent three years perfecting all the details, from the choreography that will tell Anne’s story to the designing of costumes and set.
Don’t miss your chance to experience Anne’s world when Canada’s Ballet Jörgen takes the stage Oct. 16. Seats from $15 at LCtix.com.