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There and Back Again/

There and Back Again
Paula Rego

26 October 2017 to 15 April 2018

There and Back Again is the title of a ballet presented in the 1998-1999 season, at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, by the now defunct Ballet Gulbenkian, with costumes designed by Paula Rego, choreography by Stijn Celis and music by Louisa Lasdun. Although Rego often explores disciplinary intersections between painting, literature, music, cinema and theatre - inspired by the stories incorporated within these artistic manifestations - this collaboration with the performing arts was an isolated experience within her vast oeuvre. Her involvement resulted from the fact that its entire conception, commencing with the musical composition, created between 1990 and 1993, was directly inspired by her series of engravings on nursery rhymes. Produced in 1989, this series visually recreates the universe of English oral tales, populated with stories that children tell each other in the form of tongue twisters, which Paula Rego had also learned during her childhood years at her English school - St. Julian's School in Carcavelos.

After the birth of her first granddaughter, nursery rhymes once again assumed a presence in her daily life, and it was in this family setting that she put to paper the unusual images contained in those verses, so often read and captured today, crossing them with other enigmatic images from her own private universe. In her own words, when she began working on the engravings, 'all came pouring out; the stories were there, and I started by doing the ones that my granddaughter knew (…). I got the Opie book [Nursery Rhymes], and I used to read a story, a nursery rhyme at night and in the morning I'd come up with an image, and… they just came out and out and out and out.' The fantastic creatures that inhabit these works and the way that they interact conjure up an oneiric universe - a world of dreams of magnetic enchantment, towards which we are inexorably dragged.


Paula RegoPaula Rego, The Wedding of Jenny Wren e Cock Robin, 1998


The ballet There and Back Again used music and dance to explore this dimension of fantasy and mystery that Paula Rego placed in her 'Nursery Rhymes.' The movement and dynamism that many of the engravings transmit were brought to life in the dizzying succession of characters, who danced, interacted with each other and were transformed on stage. The most striking moment in the performance was when the children became birds.

In addition to the engravings of the 'Nursery Rhymes' series and the costumes designed by the artist, the exhibition presents stage costumes, set design elements, and photographs that document the creative process behind the performance, as well as other documental records from the ballet's backstage preparations and rehearsals, thanks to the collaboration established with the Gulbenkian Archives and with the Museu Nacional do Teatro e da Dança.


Catarina Alfaro

Programming and Conservation Coordinator of the CHPR