Of Love and Rage

American Ballet Theatre, 2020

Credits | Reviews  ⇓


Music by Aram Khachaturian, 1942

Arranged by Philip Feeney

Choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky

Dramaturgy by Guillaume Gallienne

Stage and Costume Design by Jean-Marc Puissant

Lighting Design by Duane Schuler




Consultants: Kim Benzel, Michael Seymour, Dr Ian Jenkins

Research Assistants: Matteo Augello, Bronya Arciszewska

Model Maker Assistant: Patrick Cahill

Production Manager: N. James Whitehill III

Costume Supervisors: Caitlin Rain, Benjamin Klemes, Tomoko Ueda-Dunbar

Hair and Make Up Supervisors: Rena Most, Jill Haley

Costume Makers: Tricorne Inc, Eric Winterlink Inc, EuroCo Costumes, Colin Davis Jones Studios, Parsons-Meares Ltd, Lynne Mackey Studio

Dyeing: Dyenamix

Images © courtesy of American Ballet Theater, J.M Puissant


Chariton’s 1AD ancient Greek novel Charreas and Callirhoe is considered the first historic novel ever written. It establishes the notion of quoting historical characters within new fiction, building on the readers’ knowledge and engaging their imagination further.


This production, using Khachaturian’s famous Gayane, echoes stories and scores of some of the most famous ballets in the repertoire. Like Chariton’s novel, by default, it engages the audience’s knowledge, however approximate, and imagination. My process for creating the design was to mirror this technique.


Research led me to consult with Kim Benzel and Michael Seymour, respectively Curator in Charge and Associate Curator of Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Dr Ian Jenkins, classical scholar and archaeologist at the British Museum. Beyond research itself, these discussions were pivotal in re-thinking the production’s design as an act of curation, not only invention, and the responsibility of presenting fragments of archeology, history and stories still relevant to contemporary world events and politics.


After assembling a collection of archeological artefacts from each location of the story – fragments of architecture, paint, works of art, objects and jewellery – I created an imagined version of locations true to their symbolic or narrative purpose, reassembling these fragments into stage pictures and costume designs. We look at the story and the dance as re-composition, blending new and ancient, reality and fiction – which parallels the core narrative theme of the story and the choreographic choices.


Finding a way to present an extremely episodic story as an uninterrupted flow of action was just as important as creating a visual world for it. In Part 1, set in comparatively more archeic regions, built architecture pivots and rotates, manoeuvered by dancers in full view. For Part 2, as the story moves towards and to Babylon, monutental horizontal bands of architecture float in and out of view, allowing us to travel swiftly through physical locations, or suddenly stage a surreal vision scene, a narrative revelation transporting us back to Part 1.


Costumes are an interpretation of antiquity built around accessories, jewels and textiles fragments also preserved in museums. Deliberate quotes from several fashion brands’ collections – who directly borrowed from or re-interpreted antiquity – give the production a more modern feel. A progression from a sense of ready-to-wear to haute couture is used to help the audience navigate the story, geographically and socially – just like Chariton’s biographical quotes were used to guide and inform its readers.


The New York Times by Gia Kourlas

“Of Love and Rage” reflects Ratmansky’s fascination with Greek art in choreographic formations and positions, as well as in its sets and light Grecian-style costumes by Jean-Marc Puissant, who transports the ballet from Syracuse, a formerly Greek city in Southern Italy, to Babylon. Looming in the background is Aphrodite, the goddess of love, whose head occasionally hangs over the back of the stage.




Bachtrack by Ivy Lin

The sets and costumes by Jean-Marc Puissant are stunning, conveying the world of antiquity Greece perfectly. If the costumes for the Babylonians and Egyptians veers into camp, that’s part of the charm.




The Ballet Herald by Nadia Vostrikov

The stage is airy, and although there are sets, they are placed far back and off to the side, freeing up valuable space unlike some traditional classical ballets. Greek columns adorn the stage here and there, between more substantial building remnants, and the backdrop is a pure, blue sky.

A repeated image throughout is the enormous face of Aphrodite. At times her face appears cracked and worn, an echo of the story.

I was not surprised to read that Jean-Marc Puissant, the creative mind behind the scenery and costumes, has worked with opera. The captivating sets reminded me so much of the shows the Metropolitan Opera House was made for; bold, imaginative, abstract but also steeped in history.

And the costumes, oh the costumes! As the story progresses through different lands, the adornments change from sleek, Grecian costumes to blousy, comfortable fabrics and finally to rich, lush jewel-tones.

The story is entwined in the clothing just as much as the score and the steps.