ABT celebrates 75th anniversary with Mark Morris premiere and Misty Copeland at Bard

Piano Concerto #1 with Gillian Murphy and Calvin Royal III (photo by Rosalie O’Connor)

“No choreographer alive has a higher reputation for musicality than Mark Morris…his dances have brought music to meet dance in ways that have expanded our appreciation of the alchemy that these two arts can achieve together.” So wrote Alastair Macaulay in The New York Times last April in a review of the premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music of Morris’ dark dreamscape Whelm, set to a Debussy score. Though mostly retired from performing, the 59-year-old superstar choreographer is still regularly churning out new works. His latest dance will be scored to Johann Nepomuk Hummel’s Septet in C, op. 114, “The Military.” It will premiere on October 9 at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, with live musical accompaniment, danced by American Ballet Theatre (ABT) in its third visit to Bard College.

That aforementioned meeting and melding of artistic genres is right up Bard’s determinedly, fluidly cross-disciplinary alley, but there are other serendipities at work here as well. The Fisher Center is known for reviving “lost” operatic works, and Morris has a long and distinguished track record of choreographing operas, including Modernist experiments like Four Saints in Three Acts, Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer. The college bestowed an honorary doctorate on Morris in 2006 (he now has 11), and on that visit, Bard president Leon Botstein alerted the choreographer to the existence of an earlier (1935) and radically different version of Prokofiev’s 1940 score for Romeo and Juliet – one in which Juliet wakes up before Romeo has a chance to kill himself.

Morris accepted Botstein’s challenge to choreograph the score, which was unearthed at the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art in Moscow and reconstructed by Simon Morrison, a Princeton music historian. Morrison became a scholar-in-residence at the Prokofiev-themed Bard Music Festival in 2008, which gave Mark Morris’ Romeo & Juliet, on Motifs of Shakespeare its world premiere as part of SummerScape.

Bard has also been building a strong artistic relationship with ABT of late. Known for its relentless touring schedule and its commitment to celebrating American-generated dance along with preserving the European classics, ABT marks its 75th anniversary season this year. In addition to the Mark Morris premiere, its sojourn in Annandale on October 9 through 11 will present Company B, the great Paul Taylor’s jitterbug/Lindy/ballet hybrid set to the music of the Andrews Sisters, and ABT artist-in-residence Alexei Ratmansky’s Piano Concerto #1, set to Shostakovich’s Concerto No. 1 for Piano, Trumpet and Strings, Op. 35. The engagement will feature ABT principal dancers including Stella Abrera, Isabella Boylston, Misty Copeland, Maria Kochetkova and Gillian Murphy as well as Herman Cornejo, Daniil Simkin and Cory Stearns.

The program will be performed at the Fisher Center’s Sosnoff Theatre on Friday, October 9 at 8 p.m., Saturday, October 10 at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday, October 11 at 2 p.m. Tickets range in price from $25 to $65 – not a bad deal for catching some dance history in the making – and may be purchased by calling the box office at (845) 758-7900 or online at www.fishercenter.bard.edu.

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