Ghost Light by John Neumeier, music by Schubert

Hamburg Ballet

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John Neumeier — Choreographer, costume designer, stage design, lighting designer

Jürgen Rose — Costumes

The Hamburg Ballet

David Fray — Pianist

Program notes

“[Ghost Light] is like the separate instrumental lines of a symphony—or a traditional Japanese meal: a sequence of carefully arranged, hopefully ‘delicious’ miniatures. How the separate parts will unite to create a complete work, will depend on the moment we are allowed to come near and touch each other again.” —John Neumeier

A “ghost light”—a single lamp that illuminates the stage when rehearsals or performances are finished—is part of a long theatrical tradition. Legend says that originally, the night light was illuminated to allow the ghosts of former artists to cavort throughout the night without disrupting current performances! At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, countless stages found themselves illuminated by such ghost lights, awaiting the return of music and dance.

The Hamburg Ballet was one of the first ballet companies internationally to return to its studios after the first lockdown. Observing a strict hygiene concept, the great John Neumeier created Ghost Light, a new full-length ballet, for his entire ensemble of 55 dancers. A most welcome “return to pure dance” (Bachtrack), the work deals with isolation and the feelings and fantasies evoked by an empty stage. Developed in fragments using small groups of dancers (including real-life couples) and under the constraints imposed by COVID-19, Neumeier’s choreography reflects situations, fears, relationships, memories and emotions experienced during the pandemic. The gorgeous solo piano music is performed by star pianist David Fray, whose exceptional recordings of works by Schubert inspired the choreographer.

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