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Review: Jane Eyre at ABT

Running at the Met Opera through June 10th, American Ballet Theatre presents the New York premiere of Jane Eyre, which previously premiered in England in 2016. Charlotte Bronte's novel is a classic, and as heroines go, Jane is given a very difficult journey that the ballet does not shy away from.

The beginning is told in flashback, and we pick up when Jane has fled Rochester, followed by D-Men, inner demons that follow her from scene. Her limp body is found by St. John Rivers who brings her to his home where she begins to recount her life thus far.

Her family has died, leaving her to life with a wealthy aunt and nasty cousins before they send her away to school. At school, she makes a friend, only for the friend to later die. She becomes a governess and falls in love with her boss, Rochester, only to learn that he is hiding a mad wife in the attic who has a tendency to set things on fire.

It's a very grim tale, and it is told with minimalistic sets that only feature pieces of furniture at the frequent use of moving scrims, as well as ballet that leans on the more contemporary side rather than being more traditional. Cathy Marston's choreography is gestural, featuring push and pull between dancers as well as movement that stems from the furniture or the floor.

On the night I attended, Isabella Boylston danced the role of Jane, alongside Thomas Forster as Rochester. The pair are well matched on stage, and through the sometimes confusing meaning in the choreography they manage to bring out the story that is at the heart of the ballet.

If you're at all familiar with Bronte's book, then you'll likely recall the final line: "Reader, I married him." And it seems in keeping with Bronte's style of having Jane tell the reader how it ends, Marston has her step away from Rochester in the final moments of the ballet, proving that, at the end of the day, the story belongs to her.

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