Kelly was invited to create a work for the Paris Opera Ballet and, bringing with him a little American style, his jazzy, joyful Pas de Dieux was acclaimed as ‘a breath of fresh air' but has been rarely performed since.
In collaboration with Kelly's widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, Scottish Ballet's CEO/Artistic Director Christopher Hampson and designer Lez Brotherston have revived the original ballet and ‘added a new twist'. Starstruck combines live performance with cinematic filming techniques inspired by the golden age of Hollywood, as well as additional scenes not seen in the stage production.
Patricia Ward Kelly said,
I waited a long time to find the right moment to bring Gene's ballet back into the spotlight. With Scottish Ballet, I found a company that truly appreciates his choreographic legacy and brings it to life beautifully on both stage and screen.
Starstruck is set to Gershwin's Concerto in F, with extracts from music by Chopin, which has been recorded by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra.
The film's director is Oscar Sansom:
Gene Kelly is so influential in the history of dance on screen, it has been a great honour and a unique challenge to reimagine this work for film. I wanted to capture the energy of the live stage performance but bring a little extra magic that only cinema can create.
Prologue – The Warm-Up
Dancers prepare backstage. The Choreographer enters the studio. He flicks on the lights, sits down next to a piano, and begins preparing his new ballet. Simple steps turn into choreography, and he begins imagining what this new ballet could become.
The Pianist arrives for the company's warm-up. He mischievously mimics the choreographer's musings as the dancers arrive and class begins. However, the hard work is interrupted as everyone's attention turns to the arrival of the Star Ballerina.
Act 1 – The Rehearsal
Scene 1 – The Clouds of Mount Olympus
The rehearsal begins – the Star Ballerina playing the role of Aphrodite, who, having grown tired of her life in the clouds of Mount Olympus and her marriage to Zeus (played by the Choreographer), spends her days longing for freedom, spying on the mortals below and imagining what fun they must be having. Unable to resist temptation, she and her trusty friend Eros fly to sunny France together to wreak a little havoc.
Scene 2 – A Beach in the South of France
Down on earth, a handsome Lifeguard lives blissfully by the sea with his Fiancée until Eros shoots his celestial arrow at the pair and whisks her away, leaving the Lifeguard under Aphrodite's spell.
Zeus discovers that Aphrodite is missing and sends down a thunderous warning, which she ignores.
Act 2 – The Interruption
As the couples lay resting, Zeus awakens the Lifeguard and his Fiancée and reunites them. Aphrodite wakes to find herself alone. She suspects Zeus has had a hand in the Lifeguard's disappearance and begins to plan her playful revenge.
The story, however, stalls as the rehearsal is interrupted by the Choreographer giving his notes to the dancers playing the young lovers. The Star Ballerina finds herself being ignored, not unlike Aphrodite in the ballet they are rehearsing. She strikes up a flirtation with a stagehand, sure to get back the attention of the Choreographer – and it works, in fact, it works so well that a fight ensues, and the Choreographer wins back the affections of the Star Ballerina. They dance a duet which in turn becomes the reconciliation of their on-stage characters, Zeus and Aphrodite.
Act 3 – The Premiere
Reunited, both on and off the stage, the Star Ballerina and the Choreographer transport us to the premiere of the new ballet at the Paris Opéra where the whole company join in a dazzling finale ending with rapturous curtain calls for all.
As the dancers disperse, the Star Ballerina and the Choreographer walk away hand in hand, glancing back to an empty stage where all the magic has happened and to where it will one day return.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.