Laura Marsh is on the editorial staff of the New York Review.

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Dancing Kafka

Edward Watson as Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis

Edward Watson’s performance as Gregor Samsa in The Metamorphosis shows how thin the line between the beautiful and the grotesque can be in ballet. Watson, a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet, has danced the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, Rudolf in Mayerling and next year will dance Romeo in MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet. In this adaptation of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis by Arthur Pita, Watson evokes the nightmarish experience Kafka describes—of a man who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a giant insect—through the vocabulary of ballet. Here you can see his leg turned out at the hip and his foot arched. But what he is doing with his toes makes the whole posture hideous. They wriggle like a millipede’s legs, as though beyond his control, and Watson looks at them in horror.

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