The Red Shoes - Ballet and Music
Last night I got to see the show The Red Shoes. I have always been interested in ballet and wasn't ever sure why until now. This was the first professional ballet that I've seen and I have been struggling to find the words to describe my reactions to it.
Located at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, Matthew Bourne's production of The Red Shoes was performed.
Part of what inspired me to see this was that I have always imagined studying ballet as a similar art form to studying a musical instrument. It is unforgiving, sometimes painful, and good players/dancers will perform through their pains to achieve a higher level and meaning beyond simply just the notes or steps.
Matthew Bourne's vision for the music in this ballet is nothing short of brilliant. He didn't want to use the original score from the movie that this ballet was inspired by (from 1948). Bourne did have a great appreciation for the score by Brian Easdale that was set for the movie. Part of the reason I wanted to see this ballet is because it uses music of the legendary Hollywood film composer Bernard Herrmann. Hermann scored Citizen Kane, Psycho, Taxi Driver, and many more timeless classics. In Bourne's own words
"A feature film that includes a featured ballet is very different from a full-length wordless dance piece in which the music not only has to serve the ballets that the company perform but also the backstage life of the company and most importantly, the emotional story of Vicky Page, Julian Craster, and Boris Lermontov."
Melody and Phrasing
Just after watching the first act, I realized something that I wish I had learned year ago. Ballets are choreographed in a way that have masterful phrasing. Each dancer is performing their own physical form of a musical melody. There's a beginning and an ending as well as a solid arc to each of their series of movements. It feels fluid, and is undeniably organic. As a composer I feel like I can relate elements of Debussy and Ravel to this fluidity and in musical terms "over-the-barline" feeling. But with ballet, it seems to be more efficient and effective. The emotion and information that you can draw from a phrase of ballet is immense. I think that as a composer I can pay more attention to the pieces that I write and use my imagination to choreograph the instruments to be as organic as these performances.
The ending of this ballet is just so ridiculously powerful it would be a shame for me to try and summarize it or rather spoil it for you guys. I think if given the opportunity, everyone should see The Red Shoes. More importantly everyone could learn something about pacing, form, flow, dynamics, timing, etc through the elegance of ballet.
I have to say, this was one of the best live performance of any art form that I've seen.