“… We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep...”

This is one of Shakespeare’s words which more than any other were etched in my mind since the time I was a schoolboy. Not the least because of the philosophical connotation according to which the reality, just as the dreams are mental representations but also for its “romantic” meaning according to which there is no clear distinction between the reality and the dreaming and sometimes the dreams, especially when shared, can incite a true regeneration of life.

The verses are from The Tempest one of the most representative and complex works of William Shakespeare. Obviously, we are talking about the mature Shakespeare, according to whom the conflict is not quite as destructive but sometimes instrumental for its ability to cause the moral and spiritual regeneration in characters. The latest version of this masterpiece has been presented by the Dutch National Ballet at the occasion of the last edition of the Holland Festival 2014 in Amsterdam. It bears the signature of an original and innovative duo: Shirin Neshat and Krzysztof Pastor.

Lauded with many International awards (Crystal Award, Switzerland in 2014; Silver Lion, 66th Venice Film Festival in 2009; Cultural Achievement Award, Asia Society in 2008; Infinity Award for Visual Art, International Centre of Photography, New York in 2002; First International Prize, 48th Venice Biennale in 1999 and many others) Shirin Neshat has exhibited her artwork in solo shows in museums and art foundations worldwide such as the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; the Tate Gallery and the Serpentine Gallery in London; Castello di Rivoli in Turin, etc. Surely, it is not by coincidence that the choice fell on this particular paly of Shakespeare’s: Prospero, the protagonist shipwrecked together with his daughter on a desert island, shares with Shirin Neshat the condition of exile, while Miranda, Prospero’s beautiful daughter, is a woman - which fares well with Neshat’s artistic production thematically – and especially in Shakespeare’s later works women acquire a fundamental roles because of their ability to placate and bring good, in general (in The Tempest, thanks to the marriage between Ferdinand and Miranda, Prospero can be reconciled with his brother Antonio).

For the occasion of the cooperation with the Dutch National Ballet Shirin Neshat, along with her life partner Shoja Azari, presents a mix of previously existing and brand new videos with themes of colonialism and oppression. Talking about working with Krzysztof Pastor Shirin Neshat said: "His work touches me deeply. All his ballets have a strong emotional impact. And this emotional bond is extra special because we are from such different backgrounds. He is from Poland, with its Eastern bloc history, and I am a refugee from Iran, and we have both ended up in the Western cultural circuit. East meets West, in a deep spiritual affinity". Original and unique, in its ability to find the basis of the meeting point between East and West - traces of which are so excruciatingly difficult to find in everyday news of the world. Dream meets reality again, asking for the renewal of ideals and actions.

Krzysztof Pastor, Dutch National Ballet resident choreographer from 2003 and director of the Polish National Ballet from 2009, is one of the leading European choreographers, awarded with many International prizes (Annual Award of the Minister of Culture, Poland, 2014; Choreography Prize, Danserfonds ’79, 2000, Gold Choreography Prize- International Ballet Competition, Helsinki, 1995). Pastor is always very good at bringing to the scene highly emotional stories. Given his predilection for such tales, it is no wonder that storytelling of this Shakespeare’s play is focused on the “tempest” of passions and the inner turmoil of the protagonists in which the observer’s attention is shifted four times during the show because the four acts which make up the play are always foreshadowed by a tempest. In his interpretation of Shakespeare, Pastor emphasizes the theme of forgiveness, power and ageing. It is almost one soul's journey from darkness into the light. Talking of The Tempest he said: “In my view, and that of many others, The Tempest is Shakespeare’s best play, but it is also one of his most complex works. It is impossible to sum up the story in one sentence, as it has so many layers. It is open to many different interpretations. On a political level – as one theme is the loss of power. From an emotional point of view – as Prospero has a lot to cope with - emotionally. In the contrast between reason and instinct – portrayed by Ariel and Caliban, respectively. And on a sexual level – in view of the erotic tension created when one woman lives on an island with several men. And these are just a few of the layers contained in the work”.

Shirin Neshat and Krzysztof Pastor’s work is a collection of emotions and meanings difficult to sum up in one article. A whirlwind bringing in a new force of spiritual change and renewal, bringing us to a future in which key words just have to be respect, lenity and inclusion.

The Tempest,
Dutch National Opera & Ballet,
Amsterdam, the Netherlands