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

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.