"Earth," the new collaboration between Seattle Dance Project and chamber ensemble Simple Measures, is an eclectically hybrid affair, promising dance, Beatles and Beethoven.
Classical music vs. rock. Beatles vs. Stones. Music with dance. Music without dance. Plus, chats with the audience all along the way.
“Earth,” the new collaboration between Seattle Dance Project and chamber ensemble Simple Measures, is an eclectically hybrid affair.
It features two new dance works: “In Another Land,” set to Rolling Stones tunes by SDP dancer Betsy Cooper (director of the University of Washington dance department), and “Because,” set to Beatles tunes by Nevada Ballet Theatre artistic director James Canfield (the controversial — and exciting — head of Oregon Ballet Theatre from 1989 to 2003).
Both suites of songs will be performed live in instrumental chamber settings by Simple Measures, an ensemble led by cellist Rajan Krishnaswami. The music-only portion of the program consists of an excerpt from a Beethoven string quartet (Opus 18, No. 5, third movement) and a piece by Renaissance composer Giovanni Gabrieli. Also on the agenda: the lilting “Bagel on the Malecon” by a composer who goes simply by Ljova. (Krishnaswami describes him as “a Russian Jew who’s writing Cuban dance music.”)
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The idea of the evening, Krishnaswami and SDP co-founder Julie Tobiason say, is to make music and dance “more accessible, more casual” to audiences who might be intimidated by work presented in more traditional concert settings. The exchanges between audience and performers at intervals during the show are also designed to make listeners/watchers feel more drawn into the action.
“Earth” marks SDP’s first time performing with live musicians and, at a rehearsal last week, they were clearly relishing the opportunity. Cooper’s chosen Rolling Stones numbers include “Lady Jane” and “In Another Land,” tunes that show the band under an early-music influence. Her intention is to play with the “courtly” elements in the songs, sometimes following their cue, sometimes reacting against them. Her duet set to “In Another Land,” for instance, is a playful showdown between two dance vernaculars.
Some of the Beatles tunes — “Because,” “Within You Without You” — work beautifully in a string quartet setting, and one of Krishnaswami’s aims for the show is to highlight similarities between Beatles and Beethoven compositions, and the Rolling Stones’ music and Gabrieli’s.
While there’s a danger these musical offerings may be too “lite” for classical-music purists, the opportunity to see dancers perform to live music in an intimate setting is rare in Seattle. Last week’s run-through of the dance portions of the show hinted at a lively payoff from this collaboration and its unlikely program format.
Michael Upchurch: email@example.com