Premiere of historic work opens 56th season
Salt Lake City, UT—Celebrating the 110th anniversary of Sergei Diaghilev’s legendary company, Balanchine’s Ballets Russes will explore the origins of George Balanchine’s choreographic genius, opening the 56th season with Le Chant du Rossignol, Apollo, and Prodigal Son, October 25 through November 2. The historic and groundbreaking triple bill chronologically reconstructs his most significant early works for the Ballets Russes while living in France, showing Balanchine’s development into a master choreographer while collaborating with some of the world’s most celebrated artists and composers.
The program begins with a United States premiere, Le Chant du Rossignol, or The Song of the Nightingale, based on a tale by Hans Christian Andersen. Balanchine created this work in 1925 when he was only 21 years old and it marks the first time he partnered with Igor Stravinsky, which would lead to a 46-year friendship that produced some of the greatest ballets of the 20th century. With sets and costumes by renowned modernist Henri Matisse, the ballet tells the tale of a mysterious songbird who cures an ailing Chinese emperor.
Noted historians Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer, who have traveled the world in the past three decades reconstructing sets, choreography, and costumes from original “lost” productions, have uncovered historic choreography for Le Chant du Rossignol some of which create challenges when viewed through a 21st century lens. Ballet West’s reconstruction presents the opportunity to address how an arts organization honors and respects historical performing art–without perpetuating caricatured racial stereotypes.
“In the 20th century, Orientalism was all the rage,” said Artistic Director Adam Sklute. “It was seen as glamorous, mysterious, and exotic. Western composers, artists, and choreographers of the time, hungry for new vocabularies, turned to these supposed ‘Oriental’ motifs. I truly believe that, for the most part, while their interpretations were meant to be celebrations of the cultures they took inspiration from, their use of these motifs sometimes created a mockery of the culture when we look through a modern lens.”
Ballet West’s treatment of these issues will be one of the subjects of The Guggenheim Museum’s Work and Process series in New York City on September 29. “My hope is that our restaging not only entertains, but also educates, our community, and can perhaps become a platform for this larger, global conversation on how to present historic theater, opera, and dance that deals with antiquated racial representation,” said Sklute.
Rounding out Balanchine’s Ballets Russes program will be the Ballet West premiere of the choreographer’s sleek and elegant 1928 Apollo, to a commissioned score by Stravinsky. Staged in its rarely seen original form, the ballet tracks the birth of the young Greek god, his naming of the Muses, and his final ascent to Mount Parnassus. Apollo shows an early glimpse into Balanchine’s signature style of clean, clear, and technically demanding movement and musicality. The program closes with the revival of his 1929 masterpiece, Prodigal Son. With a score by Serge Prokofiev, sets and costumes by expressionist Georges Roualt, and unusual and daring choreography, the ballet tells the powerful tale of sin and redemption from the Gospel of Luke.
“These three pieces of history still remain artistically relevant,” said Sklute, “but they also give us a unique glimpse into the dawn of contemporary ballet and show us where we can go as we move the art form into the future.”
Balanchine’s Ballet Russes is produced through the generosity and ongoing support of the Barbara Barrington Jones Family Foundation and BMW of Murray.
PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Henri Marcel, the apotheosis of the Emperor, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, 1925. By permission of Boris Kochno. Le Chant du Rossignol
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Joshua Jones | Director of Communications
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