A merger of the arts Peabody collaboration of dance and music produces arresting work

April 18, 1991|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,Evening Sun Staff

Performances of the Peabody Preparatory Spring Danc Concert is Saturday at 8:15 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. The date of one of the performances was incorrect in a story about the concert in Thursday's Accent Plus. The Evening Sun regrets the error.

IT IS a rehearsal for the Peabody Preparatory Spring Dance Concert this weekend, interrupted by the in-and-out hustle among the young dancers and others who have come to watch. But the volume and rhythmic intensity of the Peabody Percussion Ensemble, the chanting of a speaking chorus, and a mesmerizing exchange between contemporary and ballet dance students shrouded in filmy black cloth all come together to powerful, hypnotic effect.

Allowing Peabody Prep students of high school level the opportunity to work with musicians at the Conservatory level is the kind of union that choreographer and Peabody Prep dance chairman Carol Bartlett has been seeking since she arrived at the school in 1988.


"For the last four years, I've had to go to the musicians," she says of previous dance and music collaborations. "This time, [student composer William McQuay] came to me and said, 'I'm working on this piece. I'd like it to be a collaborative process.'"

McQuay's piece, "No Pasaran!" ("They Shall Not Pass"), is inspired by the Spanish Civil War and in particular the poetry and rhetoric that helped direct its course. The title itself, comes from a speech by Dolores Ibarruri. His words became the rally cry for anti-fascists in Spain and around the world.

Ibarruri's words, as well as those of other poets who observed and fought in the war, are spoken rhythmically and urgently throughout the 20-minute composition.

Bartlett first worked with a synthesized version of "No Pasaran!" She abstracted McQuay's literal interpretation of the Spanish Civil War and its concerns into a more universal work that deals with oppression and conflict. But the first time they heard the music live, Bartlett and her dancers were overpowered by its sound. It was "riveting," she says. "Our first instinct was to reject [our role.] We thought the piece stood for itself."

From there, Bartlett and McQuay negotiated to make the piece workable for all, often using student conductor Fernando Jimenez as a "quasi-interpreter." Choreographer and composer overcame their differences. Though she does not wish to always create dance theater in such a precarious way, Bartlett says of her "No Pasaran!" experience, "You really learn from not being able to predict. Something really exciting evolves from the problem."

Bartlett also sees this collaboration and future ones as critical to the growth of the Peabody Institute's Preparatory program as well as its Conservatory. "It should be one of our priorities to interface with the Conservatory," Bartlett says. "It could open up all sorts of possibilities for developing new programs."

Such musical and dance partnerships will also allow the dance department to expand beyond its strong ballet, Spanish dance and modern dance foundation to include a sound background in performance training, and to pay more attention to contemporary dance theater, Bartlett's bread and butter, she says.

This weekend's Peabody Preparatory Spring Dance Concert is dedicated to Wendy Robinson, who established a Royal Academy of Dancing Ballet department at the Peabody' Institute's Preparatory School. Robinson died in February after a long illness.

The spring concert includes works by choreographers Ilona Kessell, Sylvia Drucker, Maria Morales, and guest artist Kathy Wildberger, director of the PATH Dance Company.

The concert takes place at 8:15 p.m. tomorrow and 3 p.m. Sunday in the Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall. Admission: $8; half price for senior citizens and students with I.D. Call the Peabody box office at 659-8124 for details.

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