Webinar: Silence in Ibsen's Ghosts: Tensions between Dialogue and Movement
Lianna Elizabeth Stewart examines Norwegian National Ballet's contemporary ballet adaptation of Ghosts titled Ghosts - Ibsen's Gjengangere (2014).
Photo of the 2014 production in its original cast.
Photographer: Erik Berg
Stewarts claim is that adapting Ibsen’s problem drama into a ballet creates a tension between modernism and idealism. The acquisition of perfected technique, feminist critiques of male constructed ideas of femininity, and the overall obsession with the ideal are all steadfast principles linked to the classical ballet tradition. Such characteristics still dominate the framing of this modern ballet version of Ghosts and juxtaposed with Ibsen’s modernity, amplify certain quintessential themes in Ghosts through the complex interplay between façade and reality.
Lianna Elizabeth Stewart is a recent graduate of the Ibsen Studies master's program at the University of Oslo. Prior to coming to the Ibsen Center, she received a B.A. in Nordic Studies at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, USA. Her master' thesis is titled, "Dancing with Ghosts: Tensions between Classical Ballet and Ibsen's Modern Drama"
Her interest lies in the use of the ballet form and how it elucidates themes such as gender, sexuality, power, and the destructive power of silence in Ghosts. By utilizing ballet as an art medium to present this Ibsen play, these themes are highlighted on stage due to the contrast between the form and the content. In other words, the significance of researching a ballet adaptation of Ghosts lies in the complex juxtaposition between Ibsen’s modernism and classical ballet aesthetics.
Taken from her thesis, this seminar focuses on the chapter revolving around the theme of silence. Implicit silences in Ibsen's text, which play a vital role in the action of the play, become explicit when adapted into a medium deprived of dialogue. Applying Toril Moi's claim that silence carries a field of meaning, Lianna Elizabeth Stewart highlights examples from the text and how they translate into the dance medium. The production uses certain theatrical elements to create what Kier Elam calls a “metaphoric substitution” to associate ideas with the theme of silence. These silences become explicit objects or movements on stage. Ghosts signifying past events, denial of agency, the power of duty, and heredity are the metaphorical themes of silence that Lianna considers in the ballet.