From Bach to the Rolling Stones
Boston Ballet opens its season with a diverse contemporary dance program
By Linh VuongNov. 16, 2012
Boston Ballet Company
Oct. 25 - Nov. 4, 2012
Boston Opera House
When I first looked at the brochure for the Fall Program of Boston Ballet, I was intrigued by the fact that the first piece, Rooster, choreographed by Christopher Bruce, was set entirely to the music of The Rolling Stones in the ’60s.
“Quirky!” I thought. Indeed, Rooster is a unique, energetic and entertaining piece that features Christopher Bruce’s perspective of the world in the Swinging Sixties, the era of social and cultural revolution, the anti-war movement, and the rise of feminism.
Rooster starts with the song “Little Red Rooster,” a classic blues piece covered by The Rolling Stones in 1964. In this song, dancer Robert Kretz aptly morphs into a “little red rooster” by jolting his head back and forth, accentuating the forward jolts. His constant adjustment of his tie and slicking back of his hair mimic the distinctive preening aspect of a rooster and even his flamboyant suit provokes imagery of a proud, audacious rooster. The combination of literal movements, colors, and costumes worked exceptionally well in conveying the lyrics and the rhythms of the song.
On the other hand, the female presence is more emphasized in “Lady Jane” and “Ruby Tuesday.” In “Ruby Tuesday” in particular, Whitney Jensen, dressed in a flaming red dress, took my breath away with not only technical skills portrayed in her strong leaps, spins, and balance but also her incredible partnerships with the other four male dancers. Such partnerships successfully created incredibly fluid and organic movements that harmonized with the varying rhythms in the song, from the upbeat tunes in the chorus to the more relaxed tempo interspersed throughout.
The dynamics of the male and female partnership also change throughout the piece. “Lady Jane” portrays a more tender and compassionate relationship while “Paint it Black” is all about the excitement, sexual tension, turmoil, and revenge: “I look inside myself and see my heart is black / I see my red door and it has been painted black.” The symbolic red and black seen in the costumes and stage lighting set the perfect mood for the song and the choreography, preserving the meaning of lyrics within the movement.
The incredible choreography of Christopher Bruce, the technical skills and emotional depth of the dancers, and the extent to which all eight of the Stones’ tunes relate to each other and string together harmoniously into a single piece, make Rooster a stunning amalgamation of love, anger, passion and freedom.
Bearing stark contrast to an exuberant piece like Rooster is Awake Only, making its world premiere. Awake Only is set to a score of nine compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by organist Heinrich Christensen and pianist Alex Foaksman. While Rooster focuses on human relationships, Awake Only is a self-discovery journey where the main character, performed by Jeffrey Cirio, climbs on the “merry-go-round of his life” and sees his life flash before his eyes, witnessing all of his life experiences, the people he meets, and the impact of these interactions on his life.
At the opening of the piece, a little boy in pajamas enters the stage leading a young man in a body suit (Jeffrey Cirio) through his process of self-discovery, from his past (represented by the boy) to his future (represented by Sabi Varga, bare-chested and wearing tights). The act of the little boy holding Cirio’s hands, leading him around the stage, and Cirio, in turn, holding Varga’s hands and teaching him how to move, symbolizes the process of maturation; how our older selves learn from our younger selves.
The stage setting and the lighting create a dream-like illusion, allowing the dancers to transcend time and space. On the other hand, the movement of the dancers, in particular Jeffrey Cirio, transcends what I thought was physically possible. Elo’s choreography is undoubtedly challenging, requiring not only speed and strength but also great precision and balance. Nevertheless, Cirio gave a fantastic performance, and his emotional depth and maturity were also evident in his partnership with Kathleen Breen Combes, his character’s love interest. Their pas de deux is tender, delicate and breathtaking.
The program ends with William Forsythe’s piece The Second Detail, which I had the opportunity of viewing in 2011. This performance hit all the right notes as I last remembered it, from the explosive jumps, kicks, shakes, and snaps to the playful and seductive hip-swinging and body waves. John Lam’s solo was just as stunning, and Lorna Feijóo impressed the audience with her extremely dramatic routine of head-banging, jerky, and ferocious movements.
The Fall Program undoubtedly promises the audience a fantastic line-up of performances for this season with both contemporary and traditional choreography. I simply can’t wait.
The Boston Ballet’s next program is the Nutcracker, returning with all-new sets, costumes, and choreography on Nov. 23.
Hey HSC dance bods!
This was my response for my trial for dance for the Rooster section..
I got 15/15 for it so hopefully it could be of some help to anyone doing dance...
There is no dance section in the resources part of the website so i thought i'd post it here for ppl to take a look at it!!
Christopher Bruce’s work Rooster�* depends upon the music of The Rolling Stones through the musical qualities of the pieces and the lyrics.�* Rooster�* is a work that incorporates many styles of dance and through these modes of movement a piece is created dealing with many different issues that were prevalent within the 1960’s.�* Within Bruce’s Rooster�* the movement throughout the piece can be linked to the music and lyrics of The Rolling Stones.�*�* In conjunction with these two aspects we can again add to the meaning and movement of the work through the rhythmical cues, and the socio cultural context behind Bruce’s works.
Throughout the 1960’s the rock ‘n’ roll band The Rolling Stones was a very prevalent and influential group.�* The changes and social issues that were of that era were communicated through their music with excellence.�* To look at in detail the lyrics of the certain pieces chosen by Bruce for his work we see that through the use of characterisation, costume, colour and mood, and literal movement throughout the certain sections in Rooster�* convey the meaning of the lyrics.�* In the beginning of Rooster�* we hear the words “I am the little red rooster..” the male dancer aptly takes on the role of the “little red rooster” he applies the characteristics of a rooster and turns them into movement. An example of this maybe while holding onto his tie he creates a jolting head movement backward and forward putting emphasis on the forward jolts.�* The holding of the tie is also apart of this rooster character taking on the preening aspects of a rooster adding small movements to heighten the characterisation.�* To further this ongoing use of characterisation we can refer to the piece entitled “Lady Jane”.�* The female characters in this piece are placed as one of each of the characters within the song for example “Lady Jane”, “My dear Lady Anne”, “Oh my sweet Corine”.�* We see the characterisation here through the partner work between the male dancer and the three female dancers.�* This characterisation is emphasised when the male dancer refers to another female dancer, they then begin to dance with him but again as he pledges himself to Lady Jane he must return to her as she returns to him.
In Bruce’s work the use of costume, colour and mood run together to create another building block of the piece.�* Throughout the lyrics the use of colour and relation to colour emphasises the movement and meaning behind it.�* The most prevalent colour that we see throughout the whole piece as a work is red.�* There are many reasons behind this firstly because the colour can be related to many emotions for example love, anger, hate, passion and lust.�* Secondly when dealing with the 1960’s the issues and social behaviour at the time really are reflected in the use of red as it was a time of passion, free love and allot of hate and anger towards the government concerning the war and other events.�* To look more closely at a specific piece for example “Paint It Black” “I see a red dawn and I want it painted black” two very symbolic colours red symbolising a love perhaps, a love that is perhaps lost which is portrayed by the use of black.�* The male dancer having the central role in this piece is at the front of the stage in a bright red shirt the three female dancers contrasting completely, all wearing black.�* Mood is a very important part of the piece without the mood the meaning is lost within the movement.�* The musical tone within the voice of the vocalist helps to create this feeling along with how the movement is made through the use of dynamic qualities making it fast, slow, sharp, soft etc.�* This portrayal of mood can be seen in “Lady Jane” as the movements are slow and smooth creating this sense of loving between each character allowing the audience to feel what they are feeling.
Literal movement is prevalent throughout Christopher Bruce’s Rooster.�* These movements help create the characters and moods on stage giving you real belief that the dancer actually is a rooster.�* Again moving back to the section entitled “Little Red Rooster” this literal movement is seen through the head jolting explained before, the preening which has also been mentioned and also through the “showing off” to attract attention from the females.�* As the male “rooster” dancer enters he then proceeds to start to create his own individual dance to alert the females of his appearance being made.�* An example from this section that encapsulates the meaning of this “mating dance” would be when the dancer is in a lunge position, he then makes a large arm movement that goes down to the ground then circulates up, bends at his elbow to allow his hand to run through the side of his hair as his back extends backwards until his back is 90 degrees from the ground.�* This movement shows the “cockiness” of the male rooster and again emphasises the preening which is another form of a mating ritual.
Bruce chose to look at the 1960’s and in doing so chose to create his piece through the exertion of certain Rolling Stones musical pieces.�* In these pieces are certain rhythmical cues which are one of the aids in the movement of Rooster .�* “Not Fade Away” has an excellent example of a rhythmical cue.�* In the transition between “Lady Jane” and “Not Fade Away” the dancers all circle around one female dancer who is ‘Lady Jane’.�* ‘Jane’ then on the cue of the music claps to it to transcend into the next piece.�* Another example within the work is through “Little Red Rooster”.�* As the male dancer enters sliding forward step by step on a lunge with arms placed hanging in front of the dancer whilst the head creates the before mentioned head jolting movement the guitar cues in and the dancer then falls back onto the foot behind him dragging his arm up his body extending further back creating a controlled layout.�* Through the use of rhythmical cues throughout Rooster�* the movement can then be directly related to the music.
In the 1960’s many issues and events occurred.�* Such as the impact of war and the large protests that sprung from the involvement in it.�* It also sparked the sexual revolution and things such as equality between the two sexes.�* The Rolling Stones were apart of this period and their music was greatly affected by the events of their time and it was also affected by their influences at the time of each of their musical pieces.�* This can be referred to as the socio cultural context.�* The sexual revolution gave people the freedom to express themselves physically and this is conveyed through the movement within “Don’t Play with Fire”.�*�* Not only do we see in this movement the sexual freedom but also gender roles changing slightly allowing the female to have a little more control in the game.�* The male dancer is dancing�* the style of jive dance and he dances by himself but also with the female each of them complementing each others movement.�* The female seems to be as though she is following the male but we then see that she draws him back to her she then has the power.�* Costume and colour work brilliantly to fuse this cultural context with the movement as we see the use of mini skirts in “Paint It Black”.�* “Paint It Black” also gives us a beautiful representation of movement relating to the 1960’s with the use of ‘The monkey’ and ‘The Mashed Potato’ very distinguishing movements of that time.�* The Rolling Stones however went through a period of a fascination of the Renaissance period.�* The wearing of ruffled shirts and the use of the harpsicord within their music really accents this Renaissance period.�* Bruce tried to portray this through the song “Lady Jane” with traditional ballet movements and the bowing towards the ladies even the use of partners at all times created this real sense of the renaissance period.
Bruce’s Rooster�* related to the music of the Rolling Stones through the lyrics, rhythmical cues and the socio cultural context.�* It is through these three points that we discover Rooster�* to be much more than the title leads on to be.�* It is a work that pulls from the past and future to create a fusion between the two allowing for original and creative movement to be discovered.