Choreographer: Kevin O'Day
Costumes: Mark Zappone
Lighting: Alexander V. Nichols
World Premiere: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, May 9, 2002
PBT Performance Date: May 2002
Program Notes Excerpts (2002)
By Carol Meeder, former Director of Arts Education
Choosing a well-balanced performing season means presenting both traditional and contemporary ballets, story ballets and dance-for-its-own-sake. We have to experience both past and present to formulate a clear vision of where we want to go in the future. In this way faithful audiences and new ones will be drawn in to this beautiful art form, securing its existence for posterity. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s premier of Brand New Day pulls its artistry from many corners of the ballet and music worlds to create an exciting, provocative, beautiful, and thought provoking performance that challenges our intellect while soothing the soul. Three new ballets based on music that has been experienced by each one of us on some level at some point in our lives, created by three talented young choreographers at different points in their professional careers, danced by artistic athletes meticulously trained, clothed in costumes that evoke emotional responses from onlookers – this is Brand New Day!
The music drives all three of these ballets; and in a bold and innovative move, the music of Sting was selected for the opening and closing of the production. Sting was chosen because his music is intergenerational. In the USA we became acquainted with this introspective yet rebellious and arrogant musician when he led the British punk rock group The Police in the seventies and eighties. This mega-star rock group did not really fit the same mold as their competition, which probably accounted for their success and eventual legendary status in the world of pop music. They were three young men with strong egos, but they were a few years older than most other rockers, more experienced in performance and life, better educated musically, and also savvy businessmen, which helped them survive some of the pitfalls that happen when stardom hits hard and fast. Sting easily surfaced as the leader through his talent as a songwriter and performer, and his ambitious vision for the future.
His musical influences were diverse and sophisticated, running the gamut from Bach and Mozart to Miles Davis and The Beatles. As a teenager he was immersed in jazz recordings while his peers listened to more commercial pop music. His talent as a guitarist developed performing jazz and big band music, giving him an advantage over other rock musicians. Another quality setting him apart is that his music embraces elements that are musically diverse and multi-cultural. His work over more than 25 years, before, during, and after The Police, incorporates not only rock but reggae, jazz, Celtic, and Middle Eastern music. After breaking with The Police in the mid-eighties, his solo work has become even more varied.
Kevin O’Day and Matjash Mrozewski have embraced this music and created two very different ballets. Both have chosen songs from different times in Sting’s career and each has taken a different approach toward it.
Kevin O’Day refers to his ballet, “Sting/ING Situations,” as a “structured improvisation.” O’Day, who previously did “…on the spot” for PBT’s May 2000 production of Indigo in Motion, enjoys choreographing in this framework. He relies on the dancers’ musicality to provide some of the serendipitous happenings in the piece. Since “Sting/ING Situations” is a very site specific commission he sees himself as an architect preparing to build a structure on a specific location, envisioning “a general arc” through which both the music and the dancers would flow. This overall vision influenced his choice of music, the order of the songs, and the choreographic material. Entering the studio without pre-conceived choreographic ideas, over a period of time a concept of LINE MOVEMENT and SPACE emerges that will guide but not squelch movement exploration.
Realizing that the music is so strong and familiar, he does not want to mirror or comment on it because each listener has his own interpretation which changes at different times of life. This situation poses risks for a choreographer of being too sentimental or clichÃ©. Creating a pseudo music video might be successful but is not the road O’Day wants to take. He is interested in the energy of the music and how each piece vibrates, so he must figure out how to ride the music without commenting on it or covering it up. Interpretation not a representation is his goal, and interpretation is where the dancers’ musicality shines through. Some very logical concessions to the lyrics are seen in the “general arc” when “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” is performed as a man/woman duet, as is “Every Breath You Take,” an obsessive lyric about love and possession. It follows through when “Englishman in New York” is set as a piece for PBT’s men.
In the studio, sans pointe shoes for the women, O’Day and the dancers forge a vocabulary of choreographic patterns that can carry them from Point A to Point B. O’Day sets the patterns, spacing, and time, but allows the dancers to make choices about the order of what happens while traveling from point to point. Hence, “structured improv with serendipitous happenings,” a new treat for both the audience and the dancers as each performance unfolds...
As a whole, Brand New Day has taken PBT's contemporary ballet programs another step toward the edge, pushing the envelope yet again. Initiating the innovation with Indigo In Motion, performing jazz at its coolest and hottest, the leap to rock seems just the next logical step. Never ceasing to pay homage to past traditions with its impeccable performances of classics such as Giselle, Coppelia, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker, PBT also spreads its wings and flies into Unknown Territory creating for itself a Brand New Day.