A few months ago, Justin Peck, the New York City Ballet’s resident choreographer, was having his young daughter play a set of building blocks when he listened to Caroline Shaw’s first movement a cappella “Partita for 8” Voices”. He was thinking about how to approach dense, layered music with voices, vocal effects, and instrumental harmonies, when he noticed his daughter’s playset came in eight shapes. Together, they began to move the shapes around to the beat of the music.
“We came up with a structural model to start the ballet!” Peck said, referring to “Partita,” his new piece for the New York City Balletwill have the premiere on Thursday, the company’s delayed winter opening night at Lincoln Center.
Set to Shaw . Pulitzer Prize-winning work and performed by eight dancers in sneakers, the ballet features brightly colored drapes, designed by Eva LeWitt, daughter of artist Sol LeWitt, whose “305 . wall drawing“The inspiration behind Shaw’s goals.
“It was really like a back and forth conversation, from Caroline combining text from Sol LeWitt’s tutorial drawings, then I interpreting that piece and bringing Eva in to create her own reaction. with music and dance,” says Peck. “The whole experience feels like the most vivid thing I’ve been into in terms of creative, artistic expression.”
In a joint video interview a week before its premiere, the three creators discussed their reactions to each other’s work and how important the actual parameters and pedestrian factor are. for each aspect of the ballet.
These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Justin, you initiated the project?
JUSTIN PECK It’s correct. When I first heard “Partita,” after Caroline won the Pulitzer Prize, I was completely stunned. Sometimes as a choreographer you will listen to the music and think, let’s choreograph it tomorrow. But with this piece, I felt I had to live with it, listen to it regularly for several years. I consider it one of the most important works of the last decade, so I don’t take it lightly.
In April of last year, I plucked up the courage to contact Caroline, with whom I worked on small things. She’s really supportive of the idea and I feel like City Ballet is the place to do this work because dancers have such a musical sensibility.
How did you discover Eva’s work?
PECK While I was listening and delving into Caroline’s process, I noticed that a lot of the lyrics were taken from LeWitt’s tutorial drawings. Through that rabbit hole, I stumbled across Eva’s work, and was immediately stunned by it. You can feel a bit of her father’s influence, but it’s her own unique voice, and has a dimension and theatricality that I think would work well in the live performance scene.
Caroline, “Partita” refers to Baroque ballrooms in the names of its parts: Allemande, Sarabande, Courante, Passacaglia. Do you think of it as a point for dancing?
CAROLINE SHAW I don’t really imagine it being literally choreographed, but it feels really intuitive and as if I’m choreographing with sound rather than choreography.
When I wrote the piece, it had been more than three summers, I was freelance as a violinist and singer in New York, and also taking dance classes around the city. So all those counts and rhythms were spinning around in my brain at the time. I really love music through choreography.
I was playing a lot of Baroque violin music at the time, and Bach used all these dance forms, so it felt like a great jumping off point. Each movement in “Partita” is actually related to the original Baroque dance, but they are abstractions, keeping the seeds of original measure and feel, but quickly moving further. It’s a playful experiment with form, and a conversation with the past.
Eva, are you affected by the score? How did you approach design?
EVA LEWITT I’m done an exhibition at the ICA in Boston, and Justin really liked the random, asymmetrical quality of that work, so I took it as a freedom to paint with sculpture and canvas. I wanted to leave space for the dancers, to frame them, but also have my own style with color and spacing, and I was definitely influenced by the energy of “Partita”.
Gravity is very important in my work; the pieces actually have to hang, it’s what gives the shape, defines the circles and forms. That has to do with dance, with people moving through space and voices. Those fascinating universes are important to all of our art forms.
Justin, Does each dancer correspond to a voice in the piece?
PECK Incorrect. I thought about that a lot, and created a very meticulously mapped text, decoding each voice and how the dancers could hear and count it. It was a level of preparation that I had never done before. There were times when I thought maybe a dancer would match a certain voice, but that became too forced. Vocals, it’s eight individual voices, and I think in terms of choreography, it’s like eight individual dancing voices.
In fact, from the game with the building blocks, I had a note that said “Harrison [Coll] is the lime green rhino, Taylor [Stanley] is gold leaf,” and so on!
You have created movement with a distinctive loose, basic quality that seems different from your previous work. Does this come from how you feel about the music?
PECK Well, the music is unlike anything I’ve worked on before. But it also comes from what Eva created. There is so much in her work that is about tension and harmony of line versus curve. The visual quality is so simple and mundane that really affects the choreography. There’s a lot in it that’s geometry, and about those tensions and harmonies.
Why did you decide to put the dancers in sneakers?
PECK I went back and forth for a while over whether to choose a pointed-toe or a sneakers, and decided that the sneakers felt right. To me, body language is like modern Americana folk dance, where I can draw influences from beyond ballet and incorporate them into the dance language that feels very present and authentic. deeply personal to me as a New Yorker. I think there is a comfort and relativity that I think conveys a different experience to the audience.
SHAW I really like the decision to do it in sneakers because it has to do with the way I write music. Everything in it comes from words, and the spoken word is not high. I wanted to take natural utterances, all the sounds we made, just the American voice, and turn it into music. It was something pedestrian, shaped into something else.
LEWITT I love that idea and the practical parameters of crafting something for the stage. A lot of my work is made of fabric and plastic, and there’s an inherent wobble to it, and I realized that I could create an environment for the dancers in which the film also had transitions. motion.
PECK Music, dance, design, it all feels moving, never static. That is the quality we aim for. We’re doubling down on what makes a live performance great; that it’s happening in the moment, that you feel the energy coming from the stage, the performance. This is the closest I get as an artist to having that quality on all fronts.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/25/arts/dance/justin-peck-caroline-shaw-at-city-ballet-partita.html Justin Peck and associates combine fascinating universities