...on the spot
Choreographer: Kevin O'Day
Music: Stanley Turrentine and Ray Brown
Costumes: Martin Cooper
Lighting: Howell Binkley
World Premiere: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, May 4, 2000
PBT Performance Dates: May 2000, October 2002
Program Notes (from PBT playbill, 2002)
By Carol Meeder, former Director of Arts Education, and Marty Ashby
“How can I make the vocabulary of classical ballet swing with the feeling of jazz?” Kevin O’Day asked himself when he began choreographing for Indigo in Motion. “…on the spot” with music written by Pittsburgh Jazz greats Ray Brown and Stanley Turrentine represents the epitome of challenge and excitement that this Jazz Project was meant to create. A guest choreographer’s first experience with a dance company is both stimulating and difficult. A time of interaction with the dancers is needed to determine the personal and professional dynamics of the company. O'Day usually sets an existing ballet for his initial project; but in this case he relinquished that sense of security, doubling the challenge by adding the improvisational nature of jazz music.
His main focus was "to create a living experience for the dancers to enjoy that is also designed for viewing by an audience." The process was fast, with the main structure of the piece being created in only three weeks. Approaching the project as a crossover of emotions of the music and instruments with the physicality of the movements, "the main challenge for me was to avoid creating a veneer of music on top of the movement; but rather to have the dancers internalize the jazz feeling in the music so that it would overflow into the physical movements, thus being the impetus for and the content of the dance." The challenge was staying within the realm of classical ballet vocabulary while integrating the feeling of the music.
Selecting the music for “…on the spot” occurred in a single afternoon in a Boston Jazz Club. From this intimate gathering with The Ray Brown Trio, Stanley and Mrs. Turrentine, Terrence Orr, Kevin O’Day, Marty Ashby and Jay Ashby, the tone for Indigo was set with a sense of true Jazz improvisation and deep rooted “Pittsburgh Jazz Feel”.
Upon first hearing “2 RB’s” that afternoon, O’Day and the others knew it was a “must have”. This classic Ray Brown tune reflects the bluesy Pittsburgh sound that both masters helped to create. The title “2 RB’s” was written for Ray Brown and piano great, Ray Bryant. Brown’s 1993 composition “Phineas Can Be”, written for piano legend Phineas Newborn, satisfied the need for a fast tempo piece.
The goal was that all of the music for Kevin’s ballet would be composed by either Ray or Stanley. By late afternoon the group was still searching for the medium tempo opening piece and the pas de deux. Ray and Stanley agreed to write original pieces. The trio and Stanley played through many different grooves and styles to determine the basic parameters Kevin needed. The result of this Boston afternoon provided the inspiration for Ray and Stanley to write brand new compositions which turned out to be the last piece that Stanley ever wrote and certainly one of Ray’s last compositions. Ray’s “Freight Dance” and Stanley’s “Dance Ballad” were premiered on May 4th, 2000 and will certainly go on to become jazz standards.