In theater, Hamlet is one of the most important plays for actors, one of the best texts written by William Shakespeare. In the dancing world, however, of the English bard’s stories, Romeo and Juliet is by far the biggest hit. However, the Danish prince’s drama has already been taken to the stages yes, and with impressive casts.
One of the first stagings is that of the Royal Ballet, by Robert Helpmann, in 1942. Although Robert was an idol and his work was respected, the choreography did not stand the test of time and only had a rerun after the premiere, with Rudolf Nureyev and Anthony Dowell joining together taking turns in the title role.
With music by Tchaikosvky, in Robert Helpmann‘s view, shortly before his own death, Hamlet relives some key moments of his life, which are in Shakespeare’s play. Robert was an actor and dancer, one of the biggest stars in the company at the time (bigger than Margot Fonteyn or Moira Shearer) so his work had what they call a dance-drama, where acting has equal weight to technical skill. That’s what attracted Nureyev and Dowell, more than 20 years after the premiere, in 1964.
Robert Helpmann‘s version was never performed again, not even by the Royal Ballet. In the 1980s, John Neumeier created his version of the classic for Marcia Haydée, and the cast, my God, was amazing. In addition to Marcia, as Gertrude, there was Erik Bruhn (who also danced the Royal Ballet version with Nureyev), Gelsey Kirkland as Ophelia, and Mikhail Baryshnikov as the Danish prince.
The Hamlet Connotations ballet was not embraced by critics. Staged with the American Ballet Theater, with music by Aaron Copland, did not have the Freudian aspect of the Royal version (where Hamlet sees Gertrude and Ophelia as a single person) and what has been recorded of the presentation is a cold and misused concept.
In Russia, there is more than one version of Hamlet, the most recognized being that of Konstantin Sergeyev, however, there is no footage available.
See Nureyev with Fonteyn in 1977.