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Edwaard Liang's "Feast of the Gods"New work lived up to its title


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#1 YouOverThere

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Posted 15 March 2009 - 08:16 PM

I made my first trip to see Colorado Ballet's 2009 version of The Repertory Series today (Mar. 15). The opening work (it was a triple bill) was titled Feast of the Gods, and was choreographed by a former NYCB dancer named Edwaard Liang to music by Respighi. It established itself as unequivocally my all-time favorite abstract ballet. This work had everything. Grace. Beauty. Subtlety. Power. Athleticism. Gorgeous dancing by pairs. Fascinating patterns for ensembles. The finale was eye-mistingly emotional. And to the best of my memory, there was no repetition anywhere in it. This was definitely a visual feast that would please the gods.

I ran into a couple of friends during the second intermission. One said "The first piece was the best choreography that I've ever seen."

Maybe after I see it again I can write a better description. But I was just overwhelmed by the emotion of the entire program (which concluded with Twyla Tharp's In The Upper Room).

#2 YouOverThere

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 10:30 AM

P.S. The music was taken from Respighi's Ancient Airs and Dances.

#3 Helene

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Posted 16 March 2009 - 12:29 PM

Liang has been choreographing a number of works recently for different companies and projects, and it's good to hear that his career is progressing.

Thank you for your report and the musical note: it's a lovely piece.

#4 YouOverThere

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Posted 21 March 2009 - 09:10 PM

I saw Feast of the Gods twice more. All three times, I came embaressingly close to crying. It simply is gorgeous beyond comprehension (think of it as 20 minutes that are as beautiful as the "hymn" section of Sibelius' Finlandia). And every time I watched it I became more aware of how physically difficult it is.

Feast of the Gods consists of 5 "movements" (I'll have to listen to the CD a few more times, but right now I'm thinking that the movements don't necessarily have a 1-to-1 correspondence with the movements in Respighi's music). The odd numbered ones are mostly ensemble pieces, with various all-men, all-women, and couples (the numbers for each ranging between 4 and 6), though there were a few short segments with pairs and a short solo for a woman in the first "movement". The even numbered "movements" were striclty for a single pair.

I never thought that I would want to see the same piece 3 times in 2 days, so I made plans to go to the symphony tonight with a group from my hiking club, thus missing the final performance. After today's matinee, I thought that I could skip the first half of the symphony to see this once more, but for some reason when the time came I thought that I might be perceived as being rude for skipping out for part of the symphony concert, so I didn't go through with the plan. I'm regretting my decision, but consoling myself with the thought that Gil Boggs has brought works that made a big impact 2 or 3 years later (e.g., From Foreign Lands and People this season and Celts next season). This piece is very modern but non-trendy, so I think that it will age well.

#5 bart

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 04:13 AM

Sounds like a marvellous experience, YouOverThere. Thank you for reporting on it. You make me want to read more -- but, moe important, to see it as well.

This piece is very modern but non-trendy, so I think that it will age well.


It would be wonderful if a work like this moved to other companies. So few contemporary works have legs unless they come from the big Brand Name choreographers.

How many dancers are needed? Can you give us a breakdown of each section in terms of size of ensemble, music, etc? It would also be interesting to hear how the audience responded. Somehow, what you describe, doesn't quite fit in with the ubitquitous and rather over-whelming Upper Room as a program closer.

#6 YouOverThere

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 11:29 AM

How many dancers are needed? Can you give us a breakdown of each section in terms of size of ensemble, music, etc? It would also be interesting to hear how the audience responded. Somehow, what you describe, doesn't quite fit in with the ubitquitous and rather over-whelming Upper Room as a program closer.


Feast of the Gods is the complete opposite of In The Upper Room. It's very formal and elegant and unmistakeably ballet. It doesn't overwhelm with high energy but completely captures you emotionally through beauty and grace.

This work is extremely complex, and it was impossible to take it all in even seeing it 3 times, so I really can't give good answers to your questions. I had never heard Respighi's Ancient Airs and Dances before, so I'm not familiar enough with the music to be able to identify which parts were used when. I know that it started with the beginning of the 1st suite, but my current impression is that the music for this work did not follow Resphighi's order. I could be wrong. Unfortunately, none of the previewers or reviewers provided any information about the music.

The work uses 6 men and 6 women. For the majority of the odd "movements" all 12 or all 6 men or all 6 women are on stage, though there were periods with fewer (including a solo by principal dancer Sharon Wehner). The other 2 "movements" were strictly duets (the 2nd "movement" was apparently always performed by principal dancers Chandra Kuykendall and Alexei Tyukov, who are normally paired together, while I think that the pair in the 4th "movement" changed from performance to peformance - because I prefer to sit at least half way back, I can't always recognize the individual dancers). Overall, it's very symmetric, with the middle "movement" being the fastest tempo-wise.

The audience response was very good, but it also was for the other 2 works. Standing ovations are rare at the Colorado Ballet, and only In The Upper Room got a standing ovation, which might have as much to do with it being the finale as it was with the audience's opinion of it.

#7 bart

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 04:39 PM

Feast of the Gods is the complete opposite of In The Upper Room. It's very formal and elegant and unmistakeably ballet.

I have two immediate responses to this, given the context of of most newly commissioned works nowadays:
1) :)

2) :off topic:

I would love to have the opportunity to see this.

#8 YouOverThere

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Posted 22 March 2009 - 06:55 PM

I listened to the CD once more, and I think that I was able to identify a little of the music. As best as I can remember:
- the ballet began with music from the 1st movement, 1st suite; but I think this was followed by sections from the 2nd movement, 3rd suite.
- music from the 2nd movement, 1st suite was prominent in the 3rd "movement" of the ballet.
- the 4th "movement" of the ballet (a duet) used music from the 3rd movement, 3rd suite.
- the 3rd movement, 2nd suite provided all, or most, of the music for the finale.

#9 YouOverThere

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Posted 23 March 2009 - 02:15 PM

(including a solo by principal dancer Sharon Wehner)


To give credit where credit is due, according to the program, corps member Caitlin Valentine danced the solo in some performances.


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