Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was only transformed from a stage play into a ballet in the 1960s, according to Cooper Rust, artistic director and co-founder of Dance Centre Kenya (DCK), which is staging the very ballet this weekend at Kenya National Theatre.
“It was George Balanchine who performed it first,” says Cooper who choreographed the version that is being performed tomorrow evening and twice Sunday afternoon.
“Then in the Seventies, it was performed in Los Angeles. And after that, it’s been done everywhere,” says this former prima ballerina who continues to delight audiences.
This is the first time this enchanting ballet will be staged in Kenya, but Cooper has trained a troupe of youthful dancers who have learnt to dance to one of Shakespeare’s most farcical love fantasies.
Cooper admits the story itself can be slightly confusing, just as the Bard seems to imply, falling in love can also be. But to make it clear, she’s combined graceful ballet movement with a bit of physical comedy and a touch of magic mime in her choreography. There’s been a healthy dose of acrobatic dance by Silas Ouma who plays Puck, King Oberon’s (Lawrence Ogina) playful court jester who practically flies across the stage.
Last weekend, DCK held an unusual sort of ‘Press Conference’ at its Lavington Mall branch. For apart from Cooper offering a brief summary of the ballet’s prologue and first act, Cooper had her team of dancers give us a preview performance of the ballet.
DCK’s ballets and modern dance performances have been well attended by parents of cast members and dancers. But after almost five years, the Centre now has a track record of not only producing programmes but also training a slew of young Kenyan dancers who have gone on to study at some of the best ballet schools in the world.
A good percentage of them have come from underprivileged backgrounds. For instance, Lawrence Ouma who was orphaned at age 10, is joining the University of South Carolina where he’ll study engineering and dance.