Great Music (and Lyrics) and the James Sewell Ballet


Dancers of the James Sewell Ballet’s show ‘Lover’ appeared on the cover of our Spring Arts & Food issue, photo by Mike Hnida.

Great music and great dance go together, not to mention great lyrics. James Sewell Ballet gives us Lover which celebrates the music and lyrics or Rodgers and Hart and Carnival of the Animals based on the symphonic or tone poem by Charles-Camille St. Saens.

French Romantic composer St. Saens (1835-1921) was considered a groundbreaker and the source of his symphonic poem is animals. You hear orchestral interpretations of a swan, cuckoo bird, donkey, kangaroo, elephant, tortoise, fossils, and hens and cocks. You may remember how his music was used in the Terrence Malick’s early film masterpiece, Days of Heaven.

Before composer Richard Rodgers paired up with lyricist Oscar Hammerstein III his partner was Lorenz Hart. The Rodgers & Hart team lasted from 1920 to 1943, the year of Hart’s death. The pre-Hammerstein Rodgers was lighter but was still enough to have made him an icon in music history. Hart’s delightful lyrics belie the fact that he was a man who painfully, if not tragically, lacked self-esteem despite his roaring success. The vibrant James Sewell Ballet has remounted Lover, their tribute to Rodgers and Hart, with some local luminaries of music, theater, and opera: pianist Dan Chouinard, singer/actor Bradley Greenwald, and soprano Maria Jette.

Greenwald says “Lover is a remount. Previously the piece had a soundscape of classic recordings of Rodgers and Hart songs. This time Dan, Maria, and I will be recreating them live on stage for the dance company.I love putting the disciplines together, singer and dancer, because they share the sensibilities of breath and phrase: one moves in the air, the other through it.”

Chouinard adds “this Rodgers and Hart songlist is incredibly varied and yet unerringly memorable, hummable, whistleable. From complex tunes like My Funny Valentine to the simple descending staircase melody of the title tune, these songs all stay in your head and refuse to leave.”

Dancer Cory Goei also loves the process. He says the music “informs how we interact with each other because it creates its own little setting.” And as for working with the music trio, he says “they play with us and we dance around them, so they’re integrated with the show.”

Lover & Carnival of the Animals
Through Apr. 14
Cowles Center, 528 Hennepin Av., Mpls.
(612) 206-3600

See more of the photos by Mike Hnida from the cover shoot with the James Sewell Ballet here:

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