Stravinsky Brings Together UA Choir and Dance
Photos by Bob Demers/UANews
Four pianos, 11 percussion instruments, 28 dancers and 48 choir members add up to something special that might never pass this way again.
The rarity on display is the unique collaboration of the Arizona Choir and the University of Arizona Dance Ensemble on "Les Noces," Igor Stravinsky's ballet-cantata, written 100 years ago by the Russian-born composer, who died in 1971.
Their integrated performance, the centerpiece of a concert at the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre on campus, marks the culmination of months of preparation by choreographers Tamara Dyke-Compton and Elizabeth George-Fesch and choral director Bruce Chamberlain — and is a feather in the cap of the UA's College of Fine Arts.
"The School of Dance and the choir have collaborated before," Chamberlain acknowledged, "but this is the largest and most complicated collaboration. It's an iconic piece that is Stravinsky's most 'Russian' piece."
"Les Noces" — the title translates as "The Wedding" — originally was intended by Stravinsky to serve as a ballet score but often is performed without dance. It is told in four scenes, the last of which is the wedding feast. The original choreography by Bronislava Nijinska has been thoroughly reworked by Dyke-Compton and George-Fesch.
"We have tried to contemporize it," said George-Fesch, an assistant professor in the School of Dance. "The original choreography was very dark. … But we also tried to keep elements of the Russian folk wedding, those themes and motifs."
Her colleague, assistant professor Dyke-Compton, said the choreography puts on full display all three tracks of the UA dance program — modern, ballet and jazz — and has stretched everyone involved.
"We combined our processes for this," she said. "A lot of these students have never danced with live music before. And I usually do more modern, while Liz is purely ballet. This is more of an abstract ballet."
Chamberlain, whose baton brings it all together onstage, said this is the first time he has conducted "Les Noces" with ballet.
"It's quite a challenge, but it's worth every ounce of effort," said Chamberlain, associate director of the Fred Fox School of Music, after a recent rehearsal. "This probably will be the only opportunity for the Tucson public to see and hear this danced and performed live. It's that huge of an undertaking."
"Les Noces" will be performed as part of a UA Dance Ensemble concert at the Stevie Eller Dance Theatre, 1737 E. University Blvd. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15-17; 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18; and 1:30 p.m. Feb. 19. For tickets: tickets.arizona.edu or 520-621-1162. For more information: dance.arizona.edu.