Magnificat

Choreographer: Salvatore Aiello

Music: Johann Sebastian Bach

Costumes: Evelyn Miller

Set Design: Rick Paul

Lighting: Randall Henderson, recreated by Barbara E. Thompson

World Premiere: North Carolina Dance Theatre, May 15, 1985

PBT Performance Date: June 9 2004 in conjunction with the Mendelssohn Choir for the opening night concern of the National Performing Arts Convention


Program Notes (2004)
By Carol Meeder, former Director of Arts Education

Magnificat was choreographed by Salvatore Aiello for North Carolina Dance Theatre during his tenure as its artistic director.  It was premiered on May 15, 1985 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  J.S. Bach’s Magnificat is a brilliant celebratory work of detailed richness, and Aiello's choreography is a thoughtful meditation on the biblical text and the music of Bach.  The only notes Aiello chose to write about this ballet are the two paragraphs that may be found in the “text” portion of this program book.  They are often printed as a heading for the program order and casting of the ballet.

The ensemble of eight men and eight women are costumed in everyday beige clothes with the men wearing regular shoes and the women wearing soft, low-heeled shoes.  Aiello hints at a theme of direct individual communion between every person and God.  Perhaps the costuming supports this thought.

Salvatore Aiello’s choreography is inventive and athletic, marked with bold theatrical concepts.  It is based on organic human movements illustrating his statement that, “We are not dancers.  We are human beings that just happen to dance.”  The style is contemporary ballet using the structure of classical ballet, holding the body straight and strong; but incorporating a relaxed torso as in modern dance, eliminating boundaries and allowing more generous expression with the body. 

When performing Magnificat, the choir and vocal soloists are positioned on stage in a curve behind the dancers, embracing them with the sound and integrating the music and text with the dance.  The twelve sections of the choreography mirror the spirit and text of the music without expressing any literal translation.  From the reverent, solemn entrance of the ensemble to the choreographic leaping for joy in the finale, vignettes of solos and small ensembles journey through an ascendance of the spirit.

As curator of the Salvatore Aiello ballets, Jerri Kumery travels widely, setting them on various dance companies.  Praising the astuteness, musicality and versatility of the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre dancers, Ms. Kumery expressed an appreciation of the sensitivity and adeptness PBT has for this style of ballet; attributes that are not always present in a classical ballet company.