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Millepied's Double Aria and Circular Motion

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Tonight I went to the Max Aronoff Viola Institute Annual Festival performance. Daniel Ott is the resident composer for the program. For the pre-performance presentation, Ott spoke about his collaborations with Benjamin Millepied on Double Aria and Circular Motion, and the creation of the scores for both works. He also played videos of the two pieces.

Double Aria was taped live in Lyon, with violinist Timothy Fain. While gymnastic in quality -- Joan Acocella described the ballet as "a taffy pull for two of the company’s handsomest, most long-limbed dancers, Maria Kowroski and Ask la Cour" -- it was neither show-offy nor arch in tone, which is quite unusual for the genre. I don't think it was particularly deep, but it showed the dancers to their advantage. But the breaks to focus on the violinist seemed like a throw-away. I really liked the score, though. According to the composer, Fain recorded it to be released later this year.

While Double Aria had passages that were interesting in themselves, but lead to dead ends, Circular Motion not only went nowhere, there were few parts of the journey that were engaging. One of few was Alexander Ritter's floor-slithering solo, but on the whole, I had to make do with Craig Hall's remarkable ability to build phrases and dance explosively while never breaking classical form. (What gorgeous form it is.) He almost managed to make a show.

Again, I found the score to be the strongest part of the creation. Ott explained that Millipied, who grew up in Africa where his mother taught dance and his father, a decathlete, trained athletes, was influenced by African music. He asked Ott to create a piano version for Steve Reich's Music for Pieces of Wood, composed for five claves, or carved pieces of wood, each of which has a single tone, Dsharp, octave Dsharp, A, B, C. Ott created a version for two pianos. He noted that at the dress rehearsal, one of the Dsharp strings broke and couldn't be fixed, so that it wasn't as prominent a tone in the performance. (It was taped at Florence Gould Hall.) Millipied asked him to write an intro. After Ott played it for Millepied, the choreographer said it was too much like Reich, and that he should write it in his musical voice. I happen to love his musical voice, and found that the two pieces were well suited for a work.

It was great to see two pieces that I had only read about here and in the NY Press: Double Aria joined NYCB rep, and Circular Motion was part of the Fall for Dance series. And also to see several dancers I had only heard about: Hall, Angle, and LaCour.

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