Diablo Ballet Gets Mischievous With Its World Premiere A Midsummer Night’s Dream

May 19, 2023

Fairies, jumbled romance, trickery, and a dashing donkey: Bay Area–based Diablo Ballet is closing out its 2022–23 season with a brand-new A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Premiering May 26 and 27 as part of a triple bill at Walnut Creek, California’s Lesher Center for the Arts, Diablo Ballet’s one-act version of the classic story features choreography by Julia Adam, costumes by Christopher Dunn, and special appearances by the Diablo Ballet School students.

“It’s just so much fun!” laughs Adam, as she recounts the rehearsals so far. “It’s a comedy, so there’s a lot of laughing going on in the room.”

In a large dance studio, Julia Adam leads a rehearsal for "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Both male and female dancers rehearse. Adam wears flowy black clothing, and they all pose in tendu derriere in a circle, arms lifted in a V.
Julia Adam (center) working with Diablo Ballet dancers. Photo courtesy Diablo Ballet.

Adam, a San Francisco–based choreographer and former San Francisco Ballet principal, has worked with Diablo Ballet for upwards of a decade. She and Lauren Jonas, Diablo’s co-founder and artistic director, have collaborated on several ballets for the company throughout the years. And this is not Adam’s first Midsummer, either.

“I created a version for Marin Ballet, a school here in the Bay Area, about 15 years ago,” she says, explaining that while Diablo has performed that version before, it made sense for the company to have one of its own. “It’s much quirkier and more complex because I have professionals to work with. We get to really dive into the lead characters, choreographically.”

Adam has chosen to use the Mendelssohn score for Diablo’s Midsummer, with the ballet running a total of 35 minutes. Fleshing out the complex libretto and its parallel worlds of fairies and mortals, says Adam, is like a chess game. “You’ve got the wedding, the two confused couples, Titania and Oberon’s silly fight, and a whole lot of trickery,” she says. “But the Mendelssohn score, for me, pretty much lays it out perfectly.”

The production features dynamic sets and costumes. With Diablo Ballet School’s students appearing as trees, forest creatures, ferns, umbrella-wielding mushrooms, and more, Adam’s hope is to create a charming and mischievous atmosphere to elevate the soloists’ dancing. “The whole forest supports the story,” says Adam. All of Dunn’s costumes have been designed from scratch for Diablo Ballet, with rented backdrops to add the last touches to the animated forest.

Adam aims to pay fine homage to Shakespeare’s timeless work with dreamy fairies, earthbound rustics, and a quintessential Bottom. “When you get past the old English,” she says, “it’s a very human and archetypal story, and one we can all relate to. So for something like this, it’s a special gift when you find a group you really love to work with. That’s magical.”