Dancing with Gatsby

Last Saturday I braved the chilly weather to go into Edinburgh to see the Northern Ballet’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby.

Photo source: northern ballet.com
Photo source: northern ballet.com

Although much of the appeal of the book is in the writing-style, the story of the indulgent 1920s New York party scene is easily transposed to other genres.  In my opinion the Charleston done ballet-style is the sort of frivolous fun everyone should get to see!

The choreography uses a mix of traditional and modern ballet styles to define particular characters.  This works well if you know the original book, otherwise it can become a bit mismatched and confusing. I overheard other theatre-goers saying they were glad they’d bought the accompanying programme or else they wouldn’t have understood who was who and what was happening.  A group who hadn’t bought the programme were heard saying they didn’t understand the story and kept getting the male characters of Carraway and Gatsby mixed up.  Also, although the intrigue and mysterious background of Gatsby’s character can be touched upon, it is more difficult to portray the depths of his loneliness on such a small stage.    No such problem with the three females Daisy, Jordan and Myrtle – each very individual and well defined.  The characters are further defined by clever use of costumes and set design.  The set is simple but sublime and essential in enhancing the choreography at times.  The beauty of the scene where modern-day Daisy and Gatsby dance centre stage whilst we glimpse a flashback to their youth being danced behind them through a large window, which gradually becomes opaque again to bring us back to modern-day, is one of the best pieces of stagecraft I’ve ever seen.


I would definitely recommend seeing this ballet, if you enjoy dance of any kind.  The tickets were pricey enough to put me off buying a programme, so I am certainly glad I re-read the book beforehand and would advise you to do likewise.  In fact, it’s worth a re-read even if you don’t intend to see the ballet-version.

Original cover art sourced from beautifulbookcovers.com


I’d love to hear your own thoughts – on ballet or the book!



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