Jane Eyre ballet adaptation brings literature to life

by Stephanie Racine

The Joffrey Ballet’s performance of Jane Eyre brings the Victorian Bildungsroman to life. 

The ballet opened its 2019/2020 season Oct. 16 with the Chicago premiere of Cathy Marston’s adaptation of the novel. There will be just 10 performances at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr., running through Oct. 27.  

Jane Eyre’s difficult journey is highlighted by the presence of the “D Men,” which stands for “death” or “demon.” Constantly looming, Jane struggles with her own demons and insecurities throughout the production. She repeats arguments with the D Men, fights them off and loves them, mirroring her actions throughout the story.

Jane’s tortured upbringing is fractured by violence. Her aunt, cousins and headmaster all cruelly shun her with forceful motions. These movements are later juxtaposed with the languid, loving and passionate pas de deux Jane has with Rochester. 

Jane moves to Rochester’s home, Thornfield, as the governess for his ward Adele—who may be his daughter. Adele is flighty in her pink dress, constantly moving and prodding at those around her. 

Jane becomes a fixture at Thornfield, feeling at home despite an ominous feeling of mystery. Jane does not notice Bertha, the woman in the ragged red dress lurking and watching her interactions with Rochester, as they grow fond of each other. Bertha, the mentally ill wife of Rochester, is kept away from the public. Once Rochester and Jane are blissfully engaged and in the process of getting married, Bertha reveals herself in a frenetic and rough display. 

Jane leaves Rochester, but cannot stay away for long. She returns to find Thornfield in flames—a stunningly realistic set display—as Rochester fights to save Bertha from the fire and her own mind. He is blinded by the flames, falling into Jane’s arms upon her return. 

Tickets for Jane Eyre, starting at $35, are available at The Joffrey Ballet’s box office in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph St., at the Auditorium Theatre Box Office, at (312) 386-8905, or at joffrey.org.

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