The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale - Royal Winnipeg Ballet

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet company have developed a reputation for exciting contemporary story ballets in recent years, so it was truly exciting to learn that the company had paired with NYC choreographer Lila York to interpret Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale. From its very start, the piece set a highly theatrical tone, beginning with the stage opened in plain view, and  a stark set which simultaneously evoked the prison in Chicago and the brothel in Miss Saigon. Many steps were taken to give a feeling of being watched, including follow spots situated on the stage, and the very opening sequence in which Offred is stolen away from her family as they sat in the lower part of the stalls.

York's choreography clearly evoked the many complicated relationships, from the rigid and painful movements of the handmaids, to the sweeping jumps of the resistance, to the most uneasy feeling of voyeurism we felt as we watched Offred, the Colonel and his Wife dance a sickening pas de trois in which his wife used Offred as an extension of her own body. There are countless images from throughout the piece which called up similar feelings.

The company looked good throughout, although much of the corps work could have been cleaner. In particular, Yayoi Ban was fantastic as the headmistress of the handmaids, and Elisabeth Lamont's feature as the pregnant handmaid was stunning. Amanda Green had a spunky charm as Offred, but was out shone by the fabulous Sophia Lee dancing opposite her.

I look forward to this piece becoming a part of the company's regular repetoire.