Jekyll & Hyde ballet pushes dancers in new physical, psychological directions

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Amanda Tipton Photography, Courtesy of the Colorado Ballet
Jonnathan Ramirez performs “Jekyll and Hyde” with the Colorado Ballet.

Gothic transformations, dark impulses, and passionate choreography come together in “Jekyll & Hyde,” the latest production from Colorado Ballet. The ballet, based on Robert Louis Stevenson's Gothic novella explores the depths of human psychology, set to the music of several renowned composers.

“This is truly something completely different,” promised Gil Boggs, the artistic director of Colorado Ballet. “It's unlike anything you've seen a ballet company present.”

It’s also been a new challenge for the lead dancers, Jonnathan Ramirez and Jeremy Studinski, who portray the mild Dr. Jekyll and his alter ego, the demonic Mr. Hyde, respectively. 

It’s not just the choreography in this piece that requires the dancers to stretch their muscles; they're being asked to stretch their acting muscles too. 

Amanda Tipton Photography, Courtesy of the Colorado Ballet
Jonnathan Ramirez performs "Jekyll and Hyde" with the Colorado Ballet.

“Honestly, it just feels like a gift to do something that isn't common,” said Studinski. “You can be a prince a million times, and oftentimes there's not much to a prince. He's just rich and beautiful, and people fall in love with them, and that's kind of as far as that development goes. So with something like Jekyll & Hyde where it's so psychological and there are so many different facets, it's just a treat to really dig into it and see how far you can take it.”

Jonathan Ramirez is also enjoying the demands of the production.

”As dancers, we always focus a lot on our movement … It was definitely challenging to get into the character, but we're always up for the challenge,” said Ramirez.

In this ballet, the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is told through a framing device: the plot follows author Robert Louis Stevenson as he experiences a feverish hallucination while medicated, blurring the line between reality and fantasy. 

Eden Lane/CPR News
A shot of the stage during the press preview performance of "Jekyll & Hyde" by the Colorado Ballet, Feb. 1, 2024.

As the story progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between what is true and what is not. Ultimately, Stevenson realizes that by penning “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” he has unleashed a beast — the darker aspects of humanity that exist within us all.

The full-length ballet was originally choreographed by Val Caniparoli in 2020 for the Finnish National Ballet.

While the piece came together during the pandemic, that didn't restrict his theatrical vision for the production — the dancers perform on furniture and move scenery through the course of the performance. 

“It's all the storytelling within the body and where you look and what you think, how you portray it to the audience,” said Caniparoli. The choreographer drew inspiration from his childhood memories of black-and-white movies, which influenced the psychological aspect of this ballet.

Caniparoli said he knows the work, with so much movement-based storytelling, is an exhausting one for the dancers to perform.

Colorado Ballet’s performance of "Jekyll & Hyde" is the result of a coalition between Kansas City Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Ballet West, and Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Canada. 

Amanda Tipton Photography, Courtesy of the Colorado Ballet
Jeremy Studinski, Jonnathan Ramirez and Bryce Lee perform "Jekyll B Hyde" with the Colorado Ballet.

“The four of us got together and decided to pull our resources to bring this from Finland to the States,” Boggs said.

Colorado Ballet’s production is the first to include all live music. The score was stitched together by Kansas City Ballet musical Director Ramona Pansegrau in collaboration with Caniparoli, featuring works by a number of Polish composers, including Frederic Chopin.

“That was difficult. That was three years of research of finding the right composers in the music, and we're still working on it. We're still making cuts or additions and stuff as we go,” said Caniparoli.

Jekyll & Hyde” plays at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House through Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024.

The Colorado Ballet is a financial supporter of CPR News. Financial supporters have no editorial influence.