The dancers are raring to go in Studio 1. Today they started work on OBT’s American Music Festival, a celebration of the wide range of music from our place and our time that can inspire dance. After a two-week layoff to rest and recover from a run of sold-out performances of Swan Lake, they only have five weeks to prepare this all-new program before moving to the Newmark Theatre.
Though their day will begin as always with company class—an hour-and-a-half of pure classical ballet technique—nobody knows quite yet what the rest of each day will be like. That’s how it is when they bravely launch into a program of two world premieres and one West Coast premiere. All anyone knows for sure is that it’s going to be a pressure cooker of creativity.
Trey McIntyre arrived this afternoon. Fleet Foxes songs now float through OBT’s hallways. Listen to Fleet Foxes’ Meadowlarks Here
If you’re already a ballet fan here in Portland, you may know that Trey has a special way with popular music because you’ve seen how he made magic with sound tracks as varied as The Beatles, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Astrud Gilberto, and Antony and the Johnsons during his last visits to Portland. (After seeing his Leatherwing Bat, The Times-Picayune said Trey “proved that one can make great art by responding honestly to such unlikely musical material as Puff the Magic Dragon.”)
Pontus Lidberg and Tara Keating, stager for Matthew Neenan, arrive next week. Pontus has commissioned the music for his ballet from Ryan Francis, a Portland-born composer who graduated from Julliard and now works in New York. It’s something of a rare occurrence in dance these days to birth music and choreography together, and it makes the creative gradient of this world premiere doubly exciting.
Pontus was here last summer. Sponsored in collaboration with White Bird Dance, he experimented with partnering and patterns for his new ballet at OBT Exposed in Director Park, so we know that his imagination is unbounded and the dancers know that they’ll be doing some sinuous counter balancing.
Matthew Neenan’s At the Border will be a West Coast premiere. Its score is by Pulitzer Prize winner John Adams, who has composed extensively for opera and whose minimalist music often attracts choreographers. The presence of Adams’ music rounds out the American Music Festival theme. As a choreographer, Matthew is based in Philadelphia, where critics say his pieces “generally tend toward the edgy and groundbreaking,” and that “deadpan wit and brisk pacing make Neenan’s dances delight.”
See a photo gallery of Matthew Neenan’s work, At the Border
OBT’s blog will check in every week to keep you abreast of how all this new work takes shape. Meanwhile, we look forward to seeing these brand new dances in the warm and intimate setting of the Newmark Theatre, so perfectly suited for ballet.