Contemporary life likes to shake things up to make them, well, more modern. Bourbon is added to ice cream, stores are open on Thanksgiving for Christmas shopping, and a classical ballet now focuses on refugees.
The Louisville Ballet is presenting “Stravinsky!” with two ballets by innovative Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971). “Rubies” is first on the program.
With “Rubies,” you get a collaborative twofer — choreography by George Balanchine performed to Stravinsky’s music. One section of the ballet “Jewels” (along with “Emeralds” and “Diamonds”), “Rubies” is danced to Stravinsky’s “Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra.” The costumes and set design are from Balanchine’s 1967 production.
Robert Curran, Louisville Ballet’s artistic and executive director, has said they will perform a Balanchine dance every season. “Rubies is a powerful work, the music is extraordinary and Balanchine’s choreography brings it to life through movement,” he said. “And as you enjoy the centerpiece of the incredible full evening ballet “Jewels,” … look forward to the day we get to bring the entire masterpiece to Louisville.”
On the other hand, “Firebird” is where the rules are broken. With choreography by Lucas Jervies, one of the Louisville Ballet’s resident choreographers, and scenic/costume designs by Elizabeth Gadsby, this world premiere is quite different from the classical ballet of yore. First presented in 1910, that fantastical world told the tale of a half-bird, half-woman Firebird and her dealings with an evil magician and the not-so-bright Prince Ivan. It’s good vs. evil.
Jervies’ “Firebird” takes us out of the magical forest and into the contemporary refugee crisis.
He’s worked most of his professional career to adapt “Firebird,” to create “something that spoke to the world today.”
“Right now, globally, there are millions of displaced people, families and children, all running from danger with nowhere to go,” he said. “Through no fault of their own, these innocent people who have lost everything … become redefined as illegal aliens. Our interpretation of ‘Firebird’ subverts and reflects on these ideas.”
His version is still good vs. evil, with a dash of hope.
The ensemble cast is large without lead roles. There are 41 dancers, plus children from the Louisville Ballet School. “Everyone, everyone is in ‘Firebird,’ Curran said.
He’s pleased with the production and with Jervies. “We’re lucky with having someone who questions so deeply. He’s read a lot, felt a lot, seen a lot.”
In support of “Firebird,” the Louisville Ballet has partnered with Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM), an organization that provides resettlement services in Kentucky. A portion of the proceeds from “The Firebird Gala – A Flight to Freedom” on Nov. 11 will go to KRM. The rest will go to the Louisville Ballet.
“‘Firebird’ highlights the purpose of art in society,” said Curran. “I’m proud [that it’s an] arts organization working with them. It’s a big deal, the social justice aspect of it.”
“Stravinsky!” has been dedicated to the recently deceased artist and ballet enthusiast Julius Friedman. His “Toe on Egg” poster has been revised by the ad agency Mightily to highlight “Stravinsky!” and will be given away at the Gala.