Dwarves, witches, a troll king and his retinue of troll courtiers and maids! It’s not the upcoming film of The Hobbit. It’s Texas Ballet Theater’s production of Peer Gynt. Ben Stevenson’s adaptation of this Norwegian fairy tale is an ingenious choice for the Halloween season, and it takes the stage at Bass Hall this weekend.
Peer Gynt is best known as a 19th-century play, for which Edvard Grieg wrote his famous In the Hall of the Mountain King. (That title refers to the troll king mentioned earlier.) The ballet will be a chance to hear that music in something like its proper context, but it promises much stranger stuff than that. The play was written by Henrik Ibsen, who would later go on to be known as “the father of realism” on the stage, but who wrote Peer Gynt in an early phase of his career, experimenting with theatrical conventions and moving into outright fantasy and stream of consciousness. The title character is the son of a dissipated, once-wealthy peasant who is banished from his village and wanders all the way to North Africa.
Stevenson first choreographed this more than 30 years ago for Houston Ballet, and his work has won plaudits for its mix of silly comedy, terror, and exoticism, as well as for the way it spreads out enough dancing for an entire company. After this weekend, it moves to Dallas to play at Music Hall at Fair Park.