“This is such a juicy role,” Hannah Fischer says excitedly, seated with her arms crossed over her chest, bundled up with a warm vest layered over her shiny grey leotard. “I’m kind of a fiend for the dramatics.”
The said “juicy” role that Fischer, 21, is referring to is the lead she snagged in The Winter’s Tale (November 14—22, 2015), a ballet rendition of Shakespeare’s tragic love story co-produced by the National Ballet of Canada (where Fischer is a second soloist) and the UK’s Royal Ballet, and choreographed by award-winner Christopher Wheeldon.
Fischer plays Hermione, a woman unjustly cast aside by her jealous husband, Leontes, played by principal dancer Piotr Stanczyk. Pregnant and (wrongly) accused of adultery, Hermione is put on trial and sent to her death. In the end, after 16 years have gone by, the heroine is mysteriously revived. She comes out of hiding and confronts her husband in a final, emotional pas de deux. While in Shakespeare’s play Hermione resists forgiving Leontes, the ballet leaves the story’s ending open to interpretation. “The way the ballet works for me, I don’t think she’s 100 per cent forgiving,” muses Fischer. “But there are so many moments when she looks into his eyes…could you forgive the man you love? Would you do it?” she asks. “I would, you know,” she says leaning forward in her seat with her hand on her heart, eyes sparkling. The Winter’s Tale is a moving story that captures the power of forgiveness, and questions whether it is truly possible to forgive someone who has treated you in the most brutal of ways. “It’s not your typical love story, but it is a love story,” she concludes.
As for the production’s cast, this is a ballet reunion of sorts. Last year, Fischer danced in two of Wheeldon’s other creations: a short original piece titled Carousel (A Dance) and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was also co-produced by the Canadian and British ballet companies. The Winter’s Tale has also reunited the creative team that worked alongside Wheeldon on Alice, with Jody Talbot once again supplying music and Bob Crowley designing the set and costumes.
“He’s awesome,” Fischer says of Wheeldon. “He’s super informative, super musical, super into his work, engaging, supportive, encouraging, and he knows what he wants.” Fischer’s list goes on.
Wheeldon’s typical style of set and costume design is visceral and spectacular (seen in Alice where a giant caterpillar-shaped formation of dancers moves across the stage). In The Winter’s Tale, this style is somewhat toned down, but Fischer guarantees that the visuals will be just as breathtakingly “gorgeous.” For Wheeldon, she explains, satisfaction only comes when a story is told with clarity. “And Shakespeare gives one heck of a story [to tell].”