MHC Seminar 1, Professor Casey Henry

Prompt for October 16

The selection of ballet pieces you saw last week hinged on contemporary, or new, music. (You probably noted the absence of the more formal, classical music you may’ve heard in previous ballet pieces.) Look up the music from one of the pieces, and write about how music and dance interacted. Or, how seeing the music away from dance allowed you to contemplate its sound differently.


  1. aspasiatsampas

    In the third act of the ballet, titled Odessa, there was a Spanish tango feel to both the dance and the music. The music for this work is called “Sketches to Sunset,” composed by Leonid Desyatnikov. When I was watching this piece, I couldn’t help but watch the pit orchestra as the violin soloist completely curated the whole scene for the dancers. At one point in the movement, there was the man who yearned for the woman, however, she did not reciprocate his feelings. The music changed from a rougher tango to a smoother violin solo, noting the shift in tone of the dancers as well. All of a sudden, he was not fighting for her, she was lifted up and gazing at him lovingly. The combination of the dance on the stage and the music made below caused a reverie vibe and without words, it was evident that the movement had entered a dream-like state. He was looking up at her and just as she got close to him, she was pulled away by other dancers. The music followed this pattern as the violin solo was repeated over during these instances. Everything in this piece, from the dancing, music, and even costumes matched and went together perfectly to create the sense of Spanish, tango longingness.

  2. preetiprez

    My thoughts on the Liturgy performance:
    To the first video explaining the dance,
    I found it interesting that the dancers have to make adjustments according to their partner’s needs. I feel that this brings them closer and more comfortable with dancing with one another. In this particular video, the music increases in speed and fervor as the dancers increase their movement towards one another and these aspects seemed to blend nicely together.
    The second video which solely displayed the dance had a more peaceful and relaxed melody in the background that coincided with the dancers’ grace and delicate moves within the performance.

    First video reaction: I was moved when Unity said finding her own way of doing the performance was challenging, because it made me realize that it is vital to see the dancers in a perspective that they are unique and have to create their own twist with an original dance that they learned.
    The excerpt displaying the real performance had music that was incredibly eerie and somewhat thrilling, which in my opinion, didn’t seem to match the tempo to their dance moves. Thus, it seemed quite random and confusing to how the dancers would know their cues on whether to start or end a specific move. Overall, I thought that this performance was too graceful of a dance for the music in the background.

    First video reaction: I loved the fact that he added his own flamenco background into the ballet thus, allowing him to bring his individuality onto the stage.
    My favorite line was when Joaquim says, “you form that bridge with the audience when you communicate and form that relationship with your partner.” It seemed like the perfect line to tie the whole ballet together.
    Reaction to the Odessa: I felt the tragic music matches the theme of the man doing everything he can to hold on to the woman, but she keeps slipping away from his grasp. The fairytale/enchanting music emphasized the storyline as well. Their outfits also went along beautifully with the theme and music as they stood out from the rest of the dancers in the background. To me, it looked like a love battle, as all the men behind the women were taking her away while the main man was trying to hold on tight.

    The Times are Racing performance was such inspiring way to end the ballet. It was a complete break from the traditional and past interpretation of ballet as everyone looked unique and most importantly comfortable. The dancers were not confined in a specific dress/outfit nor were they strict with their performance. They seemed to dance their minds and their personalities on stage which was very refreshing to see. However, the music was a bit odd and reminded me for some reason of a Pokémon themed game I played in the past. I absolutely adored the foot tapping within the dance because it was very folksy and upbeat and didn’t seem like the same tap dancing that I’m used to watching on stage.
    Their outfits seemed reminded me so much of the 90s generation which I think was a better option than going completely modern to our current decade. I think this act was also a smarter way to engage with the younger audience members and not just focus on pleasing the regular ballet goers who enjoy traditional theatre and performances. It was a great opportunity for youngsters to see classical dances as well, but also heartwarming to see and feel the connection with dancers as they related to our generation and the music and style that comes along with it. 
    One thing that stood out to me during the performance, was how after every act the performers would bow and accept applaud at least 5 times. Not to mention when after the curtain went down, they would open the curtain a bit and come out again for applause. The audience didn’t seem to mind though and the applaud was the same if not even louder each time the performers came out. It was only the students next to me, and myself who seemed to be surprised at this and even shared a few laughs over because it seemed unnecessary for the performers to seek applause that many times. Overall, it was a great experience at my first ballet even though I found the show to run a bit long, I enjoyed the performance and look forward to another one in the future.

  3. lfremaux

    The last piece that was depicted was what many would call a modern ballet. The performers ended the night by performing in modern clothes to modern music with a mix of traditional ballet dance and other less classical ballet movements. I thought the music and the dancing went extremely well in this piece because they didn’t stick to strict ballet movements and incorporated other types of dance in their performance. The music was not performed by an orchestra but was pre-recorded and was more electronic based. It was unique to see a ballet performed in clothing such as denim shorts while seeing the music pit black and hearing the electronic music. The music would not have gone with the movement if the choreographer did not incorporate other not traditional ballet movements into the piece.
    Along with the nontraditional music, the movement told an untraditional narrative. Even the ballet is taking a stance in the Era of Trump by depicting a gay romance story on stage. The two men danced on stage, and even while physically connected they did not look at each other. But, when they would look at each other the movement would pause and stillness would prevail, encapsulating a moment most queer people recognize. The uncertain moment of not being sure if they should act upon these homosexual tendencies and becoming aware of the person they are “dancing with.” The music helped aid this narrative by creating repetitive patterns that could spawn the same dance movements after the two dancers made eye contact. The repetitive music and dance movements went extremely well together and told a narrative that some audience members could have believed to be political or perhaps romantic.

  4. Sarah Taj

    The final piece provoked the most interest to me in that it challenges preconceived notions of what the apparent definition of ballet is. It was the biggest shift from the previous pieces and that was extremely apparent from the audiences change in expression. The quick music and disarray of colors on stage constructed a feeling of both confusion and awe, the versatility of styles onstage fostered wonderment, and the multiple stories in one amalgamated dance built ultimate fascination.

    The one, final dance spoke to me in volumes. It had a meaning, a story, and a quest. It depicted a woman, lost in her own desires, overwhelmed with the intricacy of life. One by one, a dancer would dance in his/her unique style, and would beguile her. It would scare her away, but another dancer would block her exit, and would continue to dance. She wanted to flee, but resisted. After displaying a number of styles, all of the dancers emerged in their own beauty and efforts. They all danced, with no care in the world, even managing to inspire the woman to adopt her own style. What fascinated me the most, is how the music fit every style so perfectly. Regardless of what style was being danced, the music wrapped its essence and glorified its artistry. It only ensured the accepted belief that dance is universal. Whether the music or environment is suitable, it will manifest its charm

    I have grown to respect Justin Peck’s work immensely after visiting the NYCB; his work titled The Times are Racing with music by Dan Deacon illicit the most intrigue in me. During the performance, i specifically remember loving this piece in particular. Watching the video at home, i noticed it takes place in a NYC subway which elevated its reliability. Two men in New York, the most diverse and socially forward city in the world, dancing without care promoting equal love already calls for an encore. But when it is coupled with Deacons music, agile and smooth, and Pecks choreography, the rush of impressiveness becomes exponential. I did, however, like the dance better by watching the video, only because of the environment it exposes while the theater had a more blank scene. Never the less, in both portrayals, it succeeded in its pursuit.

  5. sayrailyas

    I found the third “section” of the ballet, entitled “Odessa”, to be the most engaging. It unfolds the story about a man of fervent temperament attempting to win over a woman of a more delicate nature. The musical composition, “Sketched to Sunset” by Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov, starts off with heavy brass resonance with accompanied violins performing descending sixteenth note runs, relaying a sense of chaos. The choreography was very lively, incorporating extensive arm movements in a style of Spanish dancing known as flamenco. He seems to be trying to impress her, but she feels indifferent towards him. Despite her apathy, he is persistent in winning her over. When he sees her, he runs to her and grabs her hand, and at last, she joins him. The music eases as a group of male dancers carry the girl in air and twirl her. She seems almost as if she was floating. The beautiful melody carried by the violins and flute add to this dreamlike state. Principal dancer Joaquin De Luz compares this dance to a painting that they are bringing to life.

  6. kristin

    The final piece in the ballet performance, The Times are Racing, starts out with music that starts low, grim even. However it gradually picks up and you can hear the grandeur of the music. It feels like one is rising with each interval, however there is still a weight to the sound of the music like one is facing obstacle. I recall while this is playing, the dancers would gather around in a huddle though in the process when each interval sounds they would pause and pose as if they were struggling. When they create the huddle, they all appear to be supporting each other. They would disperse then repeat the sequence. In the few instances later there was a person they would hold up and everyone in the group appears to reach out to them. The music and and dance here greatly set the feeling of something to transpire and the idea of struggle and perseverance which is prevalent throughout the performance.

    The sudden change in the music was surprising and they too acted upon the change of the music. It was electrifying and having many performers on stage dancing, where some had a variation to their dance, kept up the energy of the atmosphere. Their movement coupled with the music held more of a naturalistic impression of everyone in action as compared to the traditional form of ballet that leaned more on ethereal and graceful movements. Much of the dancing seemed to lean on supporting one another and reaching a goal. Added with the title of the piece and moments where there was a repetition of sequences did give me a sense of time passing by. The ending where everyone collapsed did give me mixed feelings since I thought of them all persevering through time. All in all, the whole piece was amazing and relatable where the music and dancing complimented the each other.

  7. leslycalle

    The opening ballet piece, Liturgy, is an introduction into the work ballet. What I enjoyed about this first opening piece is the integration of music, dance and trust by the dancers. Ballet dancers Maria Kowroski and Jared Angle brought the music composed by Avro Pärt with each move they performed and the relationship between music and dance was evident through the choreography of Christopher Wheeldon. In Liturgy, both dancers worked with every move in sync and adhered to the changes in the music played for their piece. When there was a sudden change in the music being played, such as a slower playing of the violin or the sound of a ding, the dancers followed into a new series of choreographed steps. As the music played on, the two mimicked the changes by accentuating their moves on the stage. Maria Kowroski, for instance, is lifted up by her partner as the violin playing slows. Jared waits until the playing of the violin once again speeds up in order to turn Maria around. All while staying focused on the music in the background, both dancers had to stay keep close attention to each other. When one moved left, right, or anywhere on stage, so did the other. The dance was carried out in unison by both characters in the ballet and the level of success the two had in doing so shows their extensive dedication.

  8. K Campbell

    The Times Are Racing, the fourth section of the ballet, felt dramatically removed from the rest of the show. The music (at times grand and elegant and at others like a robot trapped in a washing machine), the costumes (varied in style but all modern), and the dance itself (with a variety of styles and influences blended together beautifully) all created an interesting piece. What struck me most was the music – the sections of more classical style, but with a modern influence, reminded me of the musician Woodkid. The music he composes holds a sense of grandeur, and his live performances consist of him standing in front of the orchestra in his t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, capturing a feeling like that of a classical composer. The lyrics of his songs often match the music in terms of scope – a full orchestra accompanies a story of a great escape, as in “Run Boy Run,” and a simple piano helps tell the story of a gay man in love, as in “The Shore.” I found a similar vibe in the ballet, with the loud electronic music playing while the ensemble performed together, and the orchestral music taking precedence during the more romantic dances, like the gay pas de deux.

  9. Henry Menestrier

    The musical accompaniment of first three pieces of the ballet didn’t necessarily strike me as contemporary. With the exception of Odessa, which gave me a gangster/flamenco vibe, the entirety of the first act seemed to be traditional ballet with very little aspects of contemporary dance. I am sure this is due to the fact that I have very little experience, if not none at all, when it come to watching and analyzing ballet. However, this couldn’t be further from the case for the final piece, fittingly named The Times Are Racing. The choreography was comprised almost exclusively of contemporary-looking dance moves, but it somehow managed to keep the idea and look of a ballet while doing so. Coupled with modern clothing and music, the resulting piece was nothing less than brilliant. Not only did it look nice, but it also told an intricate and engaging story, something that I lost in the prior pieces (except Odessa). I have never seen dancers tell a story so vividly with only their bodies and the choreography. I was watching a story of the human experience without a single word of explanation; I would watch the dancers and it would just click together. All of this was happening while the music underscored the piece, and reflecting on the piece now, I think that the music is actually what made the piece so effective. While the dancers told the story with their bodies, the music would take that same message and amplify it: the dislocated rhythms and beats of contemporary music served to highlight the hecticness of the choreography, and thus transmit to the audience that same hectincness, but now it was imbued with the message of the piece. The music went from being hectic for its own sake to being hectic in order to represent to chaos and uncertainty of life. It was a fascinating thing to hear and experience and I hope to find more instances of it in the performances to come.

  10. aidansub

    The middle act of the ballet, titled Polyphonia, was an incredible interpretation of the highly extraordinary work of Gyorgy Ligety from music to dance. Ligety’s work is an incredibly mathematical form of music, and his self-invented micropolyphonic music texture is a hard pill to swallow in every meaning of the phrase. The task to putting that extreme end of music theory to dance and making it palatable to an audience who isn’t familiar with micropolyphony sounds quite impossible. However, i think the New York City Ballet was able to rather smoothly create an interpretation of Ligety’s work that the general public can watch and enjoy corresponding with the music. The dissonance of the chords in the song corresponded to the dissonance in the movements of the dancers relative to one another. The smoothness of their movements corresponded greatly to the smoothness of the transition from one dissonant chord to the next. It made something that the general public would likely consider annoying and crass into something that they could bear to listen to and perhaps even experience vicariously through the art of dance.

  11. Ana LuoCai

    Like many others, the final act was by far the most memorable part of the ballet and my personal favorite as it provided a refreshing and modern take on what is a typically classical and traditional art form. While the performance was one thing, it was the music that really drove the performance and left what I felt was an unspoken charge throughout the theater by the end. It was amusing to note that the orchestra during this act was empty, a strange sight to see. In contrast to the more slow-paced classical music in the previous acts that I felt the performers were simply dancing along to, the electrifying sound allowed the performers to engage with the music. The fast pace of the sound kept the performers on their toes and I noticed there was a lot more room for emotion. And just like how music tends to repeat, we kept seeing the same movements and performers over and over again, which isn’t bad per se; if anything I think it reinforces the emotions.

Leave a Reply