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Can Sondheim's music be the basis of a ballet score?-- what do you think?


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#1 bart

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Posted 22 March 2010 - 03:26 PM

We have had a number of lively Stephen Sondheim threads on Ballet Talk over the years ... but never in the "ballet" portion of the Board.

This got me wondering: is there anything in the larage Sondheim oeuvre that would be suitable for a ballet or ballet suite in the mode of Who Cares?, Sinatra Songs, West Side Story Suite, Baker's Dozen, etc.?

Sondheim writes lovely melodies. But are they really ... danceable?

#2 glebb

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Posted 22 March 2010 - 05:26 PM

I can picture lots of dancing to his songs from 'A Little Night Music'. I'll double check my thoughts on that when I see it this Saturday night!

#3 papeetepatrick

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Posted 22 March 2010 - 05:29 PM

I don't think so, unless they're also sung. Maybe so, in that case. As we've discussed Sondheim over the years, I think recently I began to realize that even the best of his tunes are informed by the lyrics more than the other way around. Made me think of Ann Reinking's failed attempt a few years ago to do a whole evening of Burt Bacharach tunes--"The Look of Love". When we were talking about comparisons to other Broadway composers, I didn't even think about Bacharach, whose only show is 'Promises, Promises'' this I saw with the original cast and was full of good tunes, as well as Jerry Orbach and Jill O'Hara. The best of these sounded even better when Dioone Warwick sang them, as she had made so many Bacharach/David songs into hits that were also often quite intense artistic experiences. So, now that he comes to mind, that's an example of a much better tunesmith IMO than Sondheim (there's a danceable airiness and lilt in Bacharach that I've never heard in anything of Sondheim), and all his efforts went into the songs, with most of the lyrics of the big hits being written by Hal David--although last week's reports of the NYPhi at the birthday galal would naturally make one imainge 'Losing My Mind' and 'Send in the Clowns' sounding lusicious that way, in any case.

The only dance music that comes to mind from a Sondheim show already existing is the sexy stuff Donna Mackechnie did in 'Company', but that's pretty much in the context, I'd think. There must be more, but I can't think of parallels to 'dream ballets' in the shows as there are by composers of other shows. Lar Lubovitch did choreography for 'Into the Woods', I believe, but I don't remember any of it just from watching the tape some years back, don't think there were big numbers, but just not sure.

But sho knows? There is probably some choreographer in love with Sondheim's songs who might come up with something of interest, although it doesn't strike me as worthwhile, even if the songs were sung, because they'd be taken out of their context, where they sometimes work, sometimes dont'.

#4 dirac

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 01:53 PM

I don't see why not. I'm sure a clever arranger could come up with something pretty. They could do a medley of Sondheim's hit. :D

#5 papeetepatrick

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 03:07 PM

Yes, now that I think more in terms of a one-actor, it seems more feasible. It still seems pretty incredible how bad Reinking's show turned out, I had thought it was going to be great. Probably part of it was that it was evening-length (doesn't matter that it was a B'way show instead of ballet theater, I don't think, except that such a thing would be unlikely to even be dreamed up by any ballet company. Probably any composer in the pop realm ought to be the short kind of piece for dance.)

#6 AG

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 07:28 AM

Among the songs for a medley/one-act, I'd love to see what someone could do with "Not a Day Goes By" (with or without the lyrics)....

#7 sandik

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Posted 29 March 2010 - 10:24 AM

I ran across this

"Street dance is also transforming theatre. In 2008, Kate Prince's Into the Hoods, an inspired mash-up of Stephen Sondheim and street dance, became the West End's longest-running (24 weeks) dance show, trouncing previous record-holder Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake;"

here

(an article on the mainstreaming of street dance in Britain) and wondered if anyone on the board has any knowledge of it.


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