While choreographers rely on all kinds of musical inspiration for their dances, an astonishing range of works have utilized classical music. Experience a few here, including some true rarities that haven’t been seen in decades.
Chit Chat Polka, 1950
Once widely known as “the American Pavlova” and seen in live performance by millions, Patricia Bowman expertly straddled the divide between concert dance and “show biz” starting in 1925. Her many firsts included opening Radio City Music Hall and reigning as ABT’s first prima ballerina. She danced in only two Pillow performances late in her career, offering solos including this one set to a spirited tune by Johann Strauss. Bowman’s Chit Chat Polka is seen here for the first time in more than 60 years.
Royal Winnipeg Ballet
Carmina Burana, 2012
Carl Orff’s stirring cantata is now most widely heard as accompaniment for television commercials, but more than one choreographer has harnessed its power for the stage. While John Butler’s version from the 1950s is perhaps best known, Pilobolus has also created its own interpretation. Here, Argentinian dancemaker Mauricio Wainrot employs a full complement of dancers from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in their first Pillow visit since 1964.
Emily Frankel & Mark Ryder
At the Still Point, 1955
Debussy’s only string quartet creates a strong undercurrent for this important 20th century ballet. While it didn’t originate at the Pillow, it was performed here by its original cast just four months after the premiere. The following year, choreographer Todd Bolender restructured the dance for New York City Ballet, but you can see it here in its formative state – a remarkable opportunity to travel back in time and be transported by this spellbinding work.
Mark Morris Dance Group
There may be no choreographer working today who exemplifies such a primal musical relationship as Mark Morris, who insists on live music for all of his company’s performances. Schumann’s sublime Piano Quintet is played here by a group of top-notch musicians from Tanglewood, creating a seamless combination of music and dance in this 2001 work entitled V.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
Le Lac des Cygnes (Swan Lake, Act II), 2010
While the dance of the four cygnets in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is truly a classic, the version performed by Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo creates a world all its own. The opening pratfall and hairy chests of these swans signal that this is not classical ballet in the traditional sense, and yet this is a loving tribute to full-evening story ballets in all their glory.
Garth Fagan Dance
Oatka Trail, 2002
The Cello Concerto of Antonin Dvorak provides the musical backdrop for Garth Fagan’s 1979 work, Oatka Trail. But the scenic backdrop is nature’s own contribution, seen through a scrim on the stage of the Ted Shawn Theatre. When Fagan decided to create a film documenting this work in 2002, he arranged for a special filming session here with the huge back doors of the theatre open to the Berkshire landscape. Others like Anna Duncan have also used this unique theatrical feature to great effect.
Reggie Wilson / Fist & Heel Performance Group, Lori Belilove & The Isadora Duncan Dance Company featuring Sara Mearns, Erick Hawkins Dance Company, Bill Irwin + 12 others
Flight of the Bumblebee, 1983
It was Paul Draper who first tapped to classical music at the Pillow in 1941, but here’s a notable successor from 1983 – the great Leon Collins in his inimitable routine set to The Flight of the Bumblebee. It’s both wildly bizarre and entirely delightful at the same time and you truly have to see (and hear) it to believe it. Decades after his heyday, Collins shows that he hasn’t lost his touch here.