Dancing Ophelia at the Capital Fringe

The Women of Shakespeare Re-Imagined

Dancing Ophelia, presented by the Trajectory Dance Project out of Baltimore, MD, re-imagines the stories of the Shakespeare’s women using contemporary dance. Focusing on “the human condition,” it employs dance to examine ideas of community, social justice, and human relationships.

Performances focus on the inner struggles of many of Shakespeare’s most famous characters, including Desdemona and Lady Macbeth. This makes the bard's work much more engaging to younger audiences.

“Desdemona”, a solo performance by Frances James, is set to a reading of a selection from Othello. It beautifully represented the character's turmoil as she grapples with her husband’s actions. In “Mad Women of Macbeth”, “Incantation” depicted the strangeness and the majesty of the Weird Sisters. In each of these works, the dancers layered an extra element of emotion conveying gravity of each scene built on top of already great choreography.

A few of the performances failed to make an emotional connection with the audience. It was unclear which woman of Shakespeare some dances represented. This confusion drained power from those performances. While the choreography remained superb, but the pieces lacked the emotion punch that made “Desdemona” and “Mad Women of Macbeth” memorable.

The finale of Dancing Ophelia was absolutely spectacular. Set to the text of “The Body is Not an Apology” a spoken word poem written and performed by activist Sonia Renee, the performance was wrenchingly beautiful, despite being unclear which work of Shakespeare it represented. The dancers, dressed in all white, used their movements demonstrate the complexity and uniqueness of the women in Dancing Ophelia. The pain, madness, and struggle of Shakespeare’s women were all presented without apology.

Dancing Ophelia was performed as part of the recent Capital Fringe Festival.


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