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IU Ballet Theater performs iconic Martha Graham ballet for first time

WHAT: Indiana University Ballet Theater's "Light and Shade" Fall Ballet
WHEN: Friday-Saturday, Sept. 28-29, 8 p.m., with pre-concert talk at 7 p.m.
WHERE: IU's Musical Arts Center, 101 N. Jordan Ave.
TICKETS: Purchase tickets at the Musical Arts Center box office (812-855-7433) 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday or online at Bursar billing is available for students.

Sept. 20, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Ballet Theater opens its 2012-13 season Friday and Saturday, Sept. 28 and 29, with its fall ballet, "Light and Shade," a program featuring trend-setting styles of dance from three iconic American choreographers.

Twyla Tharp's classic "Sweet Fields," set to a live choral performance of hymns from William Billings and the Shaker tradition, will open the evening. The program will then move to two works choreographed by Peter Martins, set to the piano and orchestral strains of Igor Stravinsky, "Eight Easy Pieces" and "Eight More." Martha Graham's iconic ballet "Appalachian Spring," featuring music by American composer Aaron Copland, will close the program.

"'Sweet Fields' reflects many different aspects of Shaker society," said Alexander Brady, who is staging the work. "The geometry of the choreographic patterns, the symbolism of the gestures, the simple white costumes and the segregation of men and women are some of the more obvious inspirations. Tharp's unique movement style and masterful manipulation of choreographic themes add a layer of complexity. The ballet offers a unique perspective on not only the world of the Shakers, but humanity in general.

"In working with the talented dancers of the IU Ballet Department, the challenge was not just to stage the ballet accurately, but to help the dancers in finding a new way to move," said Brady. "These challenges were met head on by them. I am very lucky to have such fearless and hard-working dancers to work with. They are truly an inspiration."

"Eight Easy Pieces" comprises witty, quirky piano duets. The first three were dedicated by Stravinsky to three fellow composers, and the other five pieces were written for his young children, to teach them both the instrument and music.

Martins choreographed "Eight More" as a companion piece to "Eight Easy Pieces." The music is the same, although "Eight More" is performed to a version orchestrated by Stravinsky.

"This is the first time IU Ballet has performed 'Appalachian Spring' and the first time it has performed any ballet by Graham," said Michael Vernon, chair of the Jacobs School of Music's Ballet Department and director of IU Ballet Theater. "Nureyev and Baryshnikov both danced this ballet due to its amazing concept of America.

"This evening is a taste of the best of American choreography. It is a great challenge and learning experience for the dancers," said Vernon. "Musically, the production will show off the very best of the Jacobs School in both its musicians and ballet dancers, and the evening has a sophistication worthy of the best opera houses of Europe and the world."