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Hello from Toronto


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You might have already seen this, but Alex Ross reviewed some of the commissioned scores for the recent "Ballet and Architecture" festival in The New Yorker.


Some of the historical composer/choreography relationships that should interest you are Petipa and Tchaikovsky, Minkus, Pugni, Delibes (student of Adolphe Adam, composer of "Giselle"), and Balanchine and Stravinsky. William Forsythe and Thom Willems are a more recent pair. Most ballets are choreographed to music already written, but sometimes there are commissions or edits to existing scores after a choreographer creates a work on an existing score. I believe this is how Martins and Torke began a collaboration.

I see from your public profile that you are in Toronto. Upcoming at National Ballet of Canada in the 2010-11 season are:

Don Quixote -- after Petipa and Minkus

There's a great triple bill with Balanchine's "Theme and Variations" (4th movement, Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3) and "Apollo", which Balanchine choreographed in the 1920's for the Ballet Russe. Stravinsky was involved with the Ballet Russe, and the composer got to see what the young Balanchine could do with his music with this ballet. In so many ways it was the beginning. (Later Stravinsky would write commissioned works and request to the second how much music Balanchine wanted for a specific section.) The last work on that program is Alexei Ratmansky's "Russian Seasons", 2006 work for New York City Ballet, to a score by Desyatnikov. (Laura Jacobs called it an "original score" which I'm assuming meant it was made for the ballet, although the amount of collaboration isn't stated.

Later there's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", and co-commission by NBoC and the Royal Ballet by Christopher Wheeldon, with music written for it by Joby Talbot. Wayne McGregor also used Talbot's music (and Jack White's) for "Chroma", which is in the first triple bill of the season, but I believe that was part compilation, part arrangement. The ballet won awards, but I haven't read much good about it. It's in the same program as Balanchine's "Serenade" -- oft cited as one of the most beautiful ballets -- to Tchaikovsky's "Serenade for Strings". Originally Balanchine used only the first three movements. He later add the third, but switched the third and fourth in the ballet. The third work is Crystal Pite's "Emergence", and the score for that work was an original commission from Owen Belton.

In the last triple bill, Balanchine changed the order of the movements for "Mozartiana", Tchaikovsky based on Mozart. I'm not a great fan of Twyla Tharp's "In the Upper Room" to music by Glass, but I'm in the small minority, and a number of major companies will perform it next season. The last work, Bejart's "Songs of the Wayfarer" I've never seen, but I like Mahler's vocal works best of all.

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