- Choreographer: Matjash Mrozewski
- Music: Sting
- Costumes: Janet Marie Groom
- 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…
Matjash Mrozewski, in his first commission for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, has crafted his own approach to the Sting music which offers a thematic contrast to the structured improv of Kevin O’Day. “Lost and Found” although not a story, follows a theme through a series of Sting songs. Mrozewski chooses to view the company of dancers in an impressionistic way by creating a visual stage picture with a personal and emotional base. Feeling the emotional and dynamic content is the main focus. While the physicality and choreographic vocabulary are not the main priority, there is a double-edged sword here because he also feels the responsibility of giving the dancers material they can mold, something they can use to develop as individual artists.
Since “Lost and Found” has an emotional theme, the lyrics of the songs cannot be ignored. They have to be addressed. The craftsmanship lies in not using the songs as “wallpaper,” yet avoiding a literal translation. He’s developed a group of vignettes that follow a young woman through a series of emotional ups and downs as she seeks to cope with a personal loss while trying to continue her life and move on.
Opening with an exposition of tragic sadness to “Why Should I Cry for You?” the deep sorrow gives way to a romantic but ominous introduction of a couple who experience beautiful days and then a tragic separation, the interpretation of which is left to the audience. As life goes on, alternating emotions of hope and despair surround the desire to move into the future haunted by longings to recapture the security of the past. As a Brand New Day emerges and moving on is affirmed, there are still images reminding us that the past does not disappear; it just becomes part of our being.
Choreographically this stage picture is painted with dancers moving toward and away from each other, first seen and then not, moving close and then pulling away. The artful use of scrims also adds to the emotional landscape.
Sting has expressed that many of his songs are about loneliness and alienation because he has experienced those emotions very personally, however he also believes in the power of imagination. “…there’s nothing amazingly pure about something that’s been done from personal experience.” In “Lost and Found” both personal emotions and imagined experiences interact together as the audience can choose to watch from afar or emotionally imagine themselves to be part of the musical and choreographic canvas…
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.