American-born John Neumeier has been transforming the story ballet since he was appointed chief choreographer of the Hamburg Ballet more than 40 years ago, at the tender age of 31.
San Francisco audiences went wild for his weird and wonderful The Little Mermaid, which exposed the dark psychology of jealousy, revenge, and tragedy in Hans Christian Andersen's tale. Hamburg Ballet's most recent appearance in the Bay Area was only a year ago with Neumeier's Nijinsky, about the tempestuous life of the legendary dancer whose jumps were said to defy gravity, whose ballets were so scandalous that audiences rioted at the premiere of his Rite of Spring, and who died in an asylum, tormented by visions and voices.
This week, the Hamburg Ballet returns to San Francisco with lighter fare and a sweeter look on love with its very limited engagement of Neumeier's 1977 A Midsummer Night's Dream, based on the play by William Shakespeare. As a story that contains love juice, the transformation of men into asses, mistaken identities, love triangles, arranged marriage, elopement, and more, to the music of Felix Mendelssohn, György Ligeti, and traditional barrel organ, Midsummer is a ballet for lovers and dreamers of every ilk.
Neumeier granted SF Weekly an exclusive interview on February 9.