Local dance ensemble presents adaptation of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’


Photo courtesy of Patricia Stankovic

Evanston Dance Ensemble rehearses for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The world premiere performance will feature a score by Emmy-winning composer Steve Rashid.

Victoria Lee, Reporter


One particular quote from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” rings true throughout Evanston Dance Ensemble’s adaptation of the classic comedy: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”

The show will be performed by the youth dance group at Northwestern’s Josephine Louis Theater from March 15 to March 18. The plot — which follows the desperate and comical attempts of young lovers acting upon their infatuations — is the only element of the production borrowed from the bard. The adaptation features an original score, original choreography and an entirely new production design.

“Everything is really coming from nothing, except for the story line,” said Béa Rashid (Communication ’78), co-artistic director and founder of Evanston Dance Ensemble. “Although we paid really close attention to the narrative, the show is really unique because it’s a coming together of a bunch of choreographers and collaborators. … Everything is from our own perspective.”

Steve Rashid (Bienen ’83), who wrote the production’s original score, is an Emmy-winning stage and film composer. He said the music of the production reflects a wide array of styles, ranging from the instrumental sounds of Shakespeare’s era to touches of New Orleans jazz.

When asked how the musical score came together, Steve Rashid said the artists would choreograph a dance before he wrote the music. After watching the dance, he would put his hands to the keyboard and give an “honest and valuable reaction” to the movements he observed.

Rashid said the idea of producing a dance adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” had been in the back of her mind for a while before she chose to collaborate on this project with co-artistic director Christina Ernst. Rashid, who was in a prior production of the show, remembered it as “one of the most joyful experiences” of her life, full of “life, love, and humor.” Ernst expressed similar enthusiasm for the play’s whimsicality.

“It’s a great story that’s got everything: distant places, magic, humor, law, and intrigue,” Ernst said. “It uses a lot of imagination.”

The show features a mix of dance styles, from classical ballet to modern jazz. Ernst added that the combination of diverse dance and musical styles, along with innovative elements like voice-overs that draw on the original text, makes the show a unique and unpredictable adaptation.

Anne Raspe plays the queen Hippolyta, who is about to marry the duke of Athens, and Titania, the fairy queen. The 18-year-old has been dancing for 13 years, and said she loves to dance because it is a way for her to “get to know her body” and express herself in a way that connects her to others.

In portraying Titania, Raspe said she had to strike a balance between her character’s strong-willed nature and delicate femininity. She said Titania is confident about her strength and beauty, as well as exercises equal power in her relationship with her husband.

The social media world has begun to emphasize self-love, Raspe added, which is something she felt Titania’s character embodied. Raspe said she hopes women who watch the show will learn from this message.

“In today’s world, women and girls have to stand up for ourselves,” she said. “(Titania) is relevant today because that’s what we need to do as women — we need to know that we’re beautiful no matter what we look like, no matter what your size is. You’re beautiful because you’re you, and that makes you powerful.”

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