To reflect the emotional distress characters in the opera “Anne Frank” feel while in hiding, dancers appear in a powerfully chaotic and moving dance sequence representing Anne Frank’s nightmares. With the help of the Jacobs School of Music Ballet Theater department, “Anne Frank” transcends traditional storytelling with emotionally meaningful choreography.
“Anne Frank” features original choreography by IU alum Sam Epstein, who is no stranger to choreographing a piece. His senior year at IU he choreographed a full-length story ballet with the help of the ballet department, giving him an appreciation for the collaborative process he would later experience with “Anne Frank.”
“Being a choreographer on the other side of things and a part of those meetings has only increased my admiration for all these incredible artists that work outside the studio every day to get these productions up and running,” Epstein said.
Epstein said creating choreography to reflect the emotions surrounding the Holocaust was a challenging task, but he drew inspiration from other artists and their related works on the matter. One resource was Anna Sokolow’s “Dreams,” he said. Inspired by the haunting dance reflecting on the Holocaust, Epstein was able to craft delicately controlled emotional movements.
“It was great to watch and just see how other artists have tackled what is just an impossible artistic task to fully achieve,” Epstein said. “It’s honest emotion through movement and it supports the emotional development of the characters, which supports the plot.”
Maddie Tyler, an IU junior, plays the role of Anne Frank’s friend, Liez, in one of two casts. The character was transformed into a reoccurring silent role for a dancer by director Crystal Manich — a move that Tyler believed made the character more of an emotional anchor for Anne.
“She’s a character that makes her (Anne) feel some sort of stability and consistency throughout everything that happens to her,” Tyler said.
To convey this relationship, Epstein worked with Tyler to create something distinct which could become a reoccurring motif of movement, changing in meaning with the context of the scene. While different from normal ballet movement, Tyler embraced the challenge, bringing Epstein’s humanistic movement to life.
“It requires more acting than I thought,” Tyler said. “There’s a lot more gestural movement that is more emotional. It’s more aggressive and human than classical ballet.”
Tyler saw the blending of dance and singing as a necessary component of “Anne Frank,” believing it to reflect more of Anne’s personality, reminding audiences of the tender humanity at the heart of the production.
“I didn’t realize until we started rehearsals for this how prominent dance was in Anne’s life,” Tyler said. “She loved old Hollywood and dreamed to be like them. We use it to depict her imagination and then also her dreams if she was able to get out.
The Jacobs School of Music will premiere “Anne Frank” with two casts at 7:30 p.m. on March 3-4 and 9-10 at the Musical Arts Center. Tickets are available through the Jacobs School of Music website.