“Like water for chocolate”: the best seller that is read, savored and now also danced

LONDON.– Three decades after its editorial and cinematographic success, converted into one of the most widely read Mexican novels of the last fifty years, in 38 languages, Like water for Chocolatefrom the writer and screenwriter Laura Esquivel, comes back into force reinterpreted in a work by the British choreographer Christopher Wheeldonthat he London Royal Ballet premiered on Thursday.Francesca Hayward (Tita) and Marcelino Sambé (Pedro), two splendid dancers from the London Royal Ballet, play the leading roles in the new version of “Like Water for Chocolate” Tristram KentonAlthough it is the third time that Wheeldon’s team –who complete the composer Joby Talbot and the designer Bob Crowley– incorporates universal literary works (Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, A Winter’s Tale by Shakespeare) to the repertoire of the English ensemble, this is the first case with a Latin American book.Marcelino Sambe, Matthew Ball, Laura Esquivel, Francesca Hayward, and Christopher WheeldonMarcelino Sambe, Matthew Ball, Laura Esquivel, Francesca Hayward and Christopher WheeldonAndrej UspenskiEsquivel, who had already written the screenplay for the 1992 film of the same title directed by Alfonso Arau, immediately agreed to be part of the process as a consultant. He gave the green light to all functional creative license to the danced story and traveled to London for rehearsals and the premiere, after which he stated that “the ballet was a revelation” due to the treatment that Wheeldon gave to the family saga that has the forbidden love of Tita and Pedro as the center. “The proposal to take my novel to the ballet was surprising and I thank the artists who vibrated with my story,” the author confessed. “I am not afraid to say that we had a coincidence of artistic visions and spirit. Christopher traveled to Mexico, we shared intense meetings, we exchanged opinions. I have never had an experience of inclusion in a team with such a spirit of collaboration and work. I come from the 70s, when everything was collective and since then I did not have that feeling of creating, ”said the new ambassador of her country in Brazil.Last night at the premiere in London, with the presence of Laura Esquivel, the public applauded the show, which garnered very good reviewsLast night at the premiere in London, with the presence of Laura Esquivel, the audience applauded the show, which garnered very good reviews Tristram KentonIn a review of the work, Esquivel said that the three sisters represent different options. “The oldest, Rosaura, is conservative; the second, Gertrudis who joins the Mexican Revolution and is brave, represents a form of feminism, sexual liberation and control of reproduction. While the youngest, Tita, shows a different possibility, where the public change is accompanied by an inner change by killing in her a castrating tradition (the imposition of remaining single to care for her mother until death), possible only through of love and that is manifested through the food he prepares. The novel talks about oppression and liberation,” she recalled. And that is seen in the ballet. Wheeldon chose the novel after seeing the film in New York in 1993, where she arrived to join the New York City Ballet. “This story lived with me for 30 years. As a choreographer one looks for what can be told with movement and Como agua para chocolate is a love story, something effective in ballet. In addition, it has the fantastic ingredients of magical realism fairy tales; an obstacle to that love and a happy ending,” she reasoned.Since it was first published three decades ago, the novel "Like water for Chocolate" it was translated into 38 languages;  At the end of the year, Esquivel will publish a new book that he wrote in installments during the pandemicSince it was first published three decades ago, the novel “Como Agua Para Chocolate” has been translated into 38 languages; At the end of the year, Esquivel will publish a new book that he wrote in installments during the pandemic “Laura was incredibly generous with us,” continues the choreographer. “In her house in Coyoacán, she cooked us recipes from the book, she showed us old photos of her family and objects inherited from a trunk of memories, used to write the novel.” A similar experience was recounted by Talbot, a very talented composer, who spent three years researching Mexican culture and music, learning and composing the score of just over two hours that includes native instruments, recognizable rhythms and ends with the beautiful poem “Piedra de Sol” , by the Nobel Prize for Literature winner Octavio Paz, for many a “linguistic monument” made into a song for the overwhelming finale of the ballet that had Francesca Hayward and Marcelino Sambé as brilliant protagonists. Complex in its plot, with various real characters and from beyond, Spanning three generations and including recipes, it was a creative challenge. The result at the Royal Opera House led to a lengthy standing ovation and rave reviews of the choreographer’s storytelling ability and the production’s visual and musical beauty. It is not for nothing that Wheeldon has a Prix de Lausanne, an Olivier, Dance Critics Circle awards, two choreographic Benois and a Tony. Since time immemorial, verbal and written stories have been used to create narrative dance, with fairy tales being the favourite. A handful of examples prove it: La Sylphide, both Filippo Taglioni’s original and August Bournonville’s version that survives, was inspired by the fantastic story of the French romantic Charles Nodier, libretto by Albert Nourrit. The Christmas Nutcracker, by the famous French choreographer of the Russian imperial court, Marius Petipa, used an Alexander Dumas version of ETA Hoffmann’s short story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”. And let’s not forget Don Quixote, very loosely inspired by the work of Cervantes. In the mid-20th century, British choreographer Kenneth MacMillan revolutionized ballet by daring to choreograph none other than Romeo and Juliet.In an essay, Laura Esquivel and Christopher Wheeldon;  the writer and the choreographer declare themselves happy with the result of the collaborative work, which took more than two years and has just come on stageIn an essay, Laura Esquivel and Christopher Wheeldon; the writer and the choreographer declare themselves happy with the result of the collaborative work, which took more than two years and has just come on stageAndrej UspenskiHowever, in addition to using literature, the creatives of dance make their work an intelligent literary exercise that requires discipline, reading, analysis, reflection, visualization and writing, not always recognized. In this case, choreographer, composer and designer methodically organized a script that divides the original work into acts and scenes on which the dance is created. They choose, extract and summarize the most convenient aspects of the plot that forms the backbone of the stage dance. Not just one language is used, but several to do the same thing as a literary piece: communicate a story. Except that, in dance, language is movement, music and image. Esquivel, still in London, told LA NACION yesterday: “I was moved to tears. I had seen snippets of the dance that Christopher sent me and part of the rehearsals in April, but it is not the same as seeing the complete work and with the orchestrated music. I was delighted to see that he preserved the humor with which I wrote in the novel the scene of the hands reaching under the table looking for the bodies, after they eat the quail in rose petal sauce. She refers to the sensual scene of sister Gertrudis who, possessed by the aphrodisiac effect of the dish prepared by the mourning Tita, flees in a fit of sexual frenzy on horseback with the revolutionary Juan Alejandrez, to join the armed struggle. And she continued: “Christopher achieved something incredible, translating emotions with movements alone. He correctly cut scenes from the novel, as happened in the film, for artistic translation”.The experience of this version confirms a very long tradition of works of literature that transfer their narration to the language of dance;  among other cases, in London they dance an adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland"by the same choreographerThe experience of this version confirms a very long tradition of works of literature that transfer their narration to the language of dance; among other cases, in London they dance an adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland”, by the same choreographer Tristram KentonAs for the satisfaction that this novel gave her, the author considered that “the key is in what moves you. What touches your heart has to do with a very special energy. Wherever I was invited for my book I picked up the same comment, from Patagonia to Japan and Finland they told me: ‘You don’t know how I remembered my grandmother’s kitchen.’ Art is that bridge, that connection in memory, and it is part of a universal culture, which makes something last.” The ballet Like Water for Chocolate continues at the Royal Opera House until June 17. In November, during the Guadalajara Book Fair, Esquivel will present her new book, written in a pandemic: What I saw, a collective memory of her life memories, throughout her 70 years.

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