While growing up, “the arts” were not a part of my environment. There was music; gospel or c&w; Tennessee Ernie Ford provided the soundtrack for my early childhood. I discovered ‘Top 40’ radio about the time of the “British Invasion”. ‘Reading’ meant the newspaper, The Bible, or Reader’s Digest Condensed Books for my mother. My father disapproved of bookish habits in boys so my reading was limited to school books. Mostly, there was television. As an adult, I’ve made an effort to educate myself but I often feel like I am playing ‘catch-up’ on things cultural.
Prior to moving to Phoenix, I’d never attended a ballet; not even the The Nutcracker. My exposure, such as it was, came from television and movies. The Turning Point comes to mind. By reading and listening to others, I learned a little. I’d heard of the choreographer George Balanchine. I knew the Bolshoi and Kirov were ballet companies from which dancers regularly defected. I knew of the “Ballets Russes” because it was mentioned in the theme song to The Patty Duke Show. I knew that Nureyev and Baryshnikov looked mighty fine in tights. All this leads to a conclusion, I am not a sophisticated consumer when it comes to “The Dance”. But I know what I like.
The seasons at Ballet Arizona are predictable. There is a well-known classic like Swan Lake or Giselle. There is a ballet based on a fairy tale like Sleeping Beauty. The Nutcracker is a Christmas tradition. There is an “All Balanchine” evening and there is an evening called “Director’s Choice”.
Presented in three sections with intermissions between. this year’s Director’s Choice began with a piece set to Saint-Saëns’ Les Carnaval des Animaux (1886). The music is familiar and choreography was broad and funny; in some cases, laugh-out-loud funny.
The third section was a more traditional. It was set to Benjamin Britten’s Diversions for Piano and Orchestra (1940). I mostly know Britten as an opera composer, where his works do not make my ‘Top 10 List’ but Harper’s Other Dad is a fan so I made every effort to remain alert and attentive.
The middle section, however, was absolutely luminous. Choreographed by Alejandro Cerrudo, it included two pieces. The first was set to Metamorphosis by Philip Glass (1989). Glass is a favorite of mine. The choreography was modern (the local reviewer called it “post-modern”) and abstract; a perfect match for Glass’ minimalist music.
The second piece was set to Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel Im Spiegel (1978). I was familiar with this music because we have a recording of it at home. Harper’s Other Dad has been a fan of Mr. Pärt for a long time. Spiegel Im Spiegel (Mirror in the Mirror) is probably Pärt’s best know work. The two pieces together were mesmerizing to watch.
I think the powers-that-be at Ballet Arizona must know what they are doing when they plan their seasons. Director’s Choice is always my favorite and it always coincides with the mailing of the subscription renewal information for next season. Coincidence? I think not.