Strings for Spring
David Briskin on the Music of March
March 3, 2023
Rena Butler with David Preciado, Siphesihle November and Tina Pereira during the creation process of Alleged Dances. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
When John Adams named his 1994 composition John’s Book of Alleged Dances, the highly-regarded American composer said that the dances were alleged because “the steps had yet to be invented.” Rena Butler is the latest choreographer to take on that challenge and she has responded playfully with the title of her new work for The National Ballet of Canada. On March 3, 2023, Butler unveiled Alleged Dances, the steps now invented for seven of ten dances that make up John’s Book.
“Adams' music always has a sense of theatricality,” says Music Director and Principal Conductor David Briskin. “Just as things start to settle and feel predictable, he shifts things. Sometimes it takes a few moments to realize that you've taken a turn on a new road. Written for a string quartet, each of the short miniatures are rhythmically active and complex which make them a wonderful opportunity for a choreographer.
Tene Ward and Josh Hall in Alleged Dances. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
“There’s a wide berth for an emerging choreographer with variety among each of the pieces but a structure that’s helpful to work within,” continues Briskin, who worked closely with Butler through the creation process. “I've really enjoyed watching Rena create an equal partnership between Adams' music and her movement.”
A string quartet, comprised of four Orchestra members, appear on stage for Alleged Dances. And in fact, all three pieces of music for the mixed programme, carefully curated by Hope Muir, Joan and Jerry Lozinski Artistic Director, feature strings.
Genevieve Penn Nabity and Ben Rudisin in Anima Animus. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
For Anima Animus, David Dawson selected Violin Concerto No. 1, EsoConcerto (2017) by Ezio Bosso, an Italian conductor, composer and double bass player. “The concerto straddles several genres,” says Briskin. “While grounded in a minimalist classical idiom, the piece is hyper-charged with energy and intensity which is reflected clearly in the movement of Dawson’s choreography.”
Artists of the Ballet in Symphony in C. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
In Symphony in C, George Balanchine captures the youthful and exuberant joy within Bizet’s early work. Bizet wrote the music at 17 and considered it a student assignment, never wanting it published or performed in his lifetime. “Balanchine truly makes us see what he’s hearing,” Briskin says. “Both the structure and Balanchine's personal response is wedded to the music.
“The musical pieces for this triple bill complement and contrast each other thoughtfully and intentionally,” Briskin concludes. “It’s a great programme to welcome spring.”
Symphony in C & Alleged Dances & Anima Animus continue onstage March 22 – 23.