Thoughts On Seeing The Handmaid’s Tale- Royal Winnipeg Ballet

hand maid's tale ad1.The message of this work is important- just how easy it would be for women to lose all the freedoms and legal rights they have worked so hard to win in the last fifty years.Seeing the ballet reminded me how tenuous the independence woman have now might be. It is especially scary that in The Handmaid’s Tale the loss of women’s rights comes as a result of religious conservatism. There are many places in the world where the subjugation of women is justified for religious reasons. 

2. The main character in the ballet is Offred.  She is called that because she is the property of a man named Fred. She doesn’t have her own identity. She is just ‘of Fred.’   In my mother’s generation women were known in a similar way. My mother for example was often referred to publicly as Mrs. Paul Peters or my mother-in-law as Mrs. Cornie Driedger. Their husband’s first and last names were used as if their own female names didn’t matter or weren’t important.

3. Ballet tells a story in such a different and unique way from other genres.  Scenes are drawn out and explored in-depth. This can make it slow-moving. It can also make it more thought-provoking.

hand maid's tale book4. Would I have followed the story if I hadn’t read the book and seen the movie? Margaret Atwood’s book The Handmaid’s Tale on which the ballet was based is a favorite of mine. I have read it many times and just read it again before the ballet, so I knew what was happening in every scene. I’m not sure however that someone who hadn’t read the book would have followed along. Perhaps though my perception of this is a result of the fact that have seen very few ballets in my lifetime and am not as adept at following a story told through dance as more regular ballet viewers would be.

5. In The Handmaid’s Tale society is completely controlled by men.  When my grandmothers were first married they were still considered their husbands’ property here in Canada and didn’t have the right to vote.

6.  I wondered if a ballet is designed like a film frame by frame. There were many beautiful ‘frames’ in this ballet- moments that would have made stunning photographs.

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood

7.  I love what Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood said in the Free Press after seeing the ballet. She was commenting on the way the dancers’ whole bodies were involved in telling the story. “Totalitarianism is very much about bodies: Who gets to control whose body, and how free you are to express yourself. And what kind of constraint it puts on the body to be un-free. People hold themselves differently.”

 8. As I re-read the book before the ballet and watched the ballet, I was reminded of how important a ‘balance of power’ is between men and women. In the story ( in the ballet  the woman’s past is shown in flashback video that plays on a screen on stage) the main character had a loving family relationship prior to being a slave/handmaid. At one point the government takes away women’s jobs so they can no longer work. Almost immediately the main character notices a subtle shift in her relationship with her partner even though they love each other, because he now has more financial/ cultural/ social power than she does.

commander and offred handmaid's tale9. I marvel at the dedication of ballet dancers, the  hours of practice they must invest, the personal sacrifices they must make  and the physical stamina they require.

10. The score for the ballet was a compilation of very appropriately chosen musical pieces performed by outstanding musicians from the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. I did wonder however what an original score for the ballet would have sounded like if someone had written one.

Other posts that might be of interest…….

Gender Inequity at the Wailing Wall

Hot Wives and Christian Leaders

The Famous Five

Why No Golden Girl

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