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The Captivating Convergance of Contemporary Ballet and Music

How do music and movement relate in contemporary ballet? Music can be composed for dance moves,  dance can be created for music, and sometimes they’re created independently – coming together on the stage. WRTI’s Susan Lewis has more. 

Composer John King talks with WRTI's Susan Lewis about his new work with choreographer Kevin O'Day, premiered by BalletX. 'Time Curves' is written for cello, played live on stage, with electronics.

Credit Bill Hebert / BalletX
In rehearsal: (L to R) Gary W. Jeter II, Caili Quan, Kevin O’Day (choreographer), Richard Villaverde, Edgar Anido

Radio Script:

Susan Lewis: Choreographer Kevin O’Day says his longtime collaboration with composer John King has allowed a lot of independence in their work. Often, movements are not set to the music, as in traditional dance, but are timed to coincide periodically. 

Kevin O'Day:  There’s a duration from beginning to end, and meeting points.

SL: Their work for BalletX’s 2016 Spring Series — called Time Curves — is contemporary ballet with live original music, played by a cellist onstage, with additional electronic elements.

KOD:  There’ll be one segment of this particular piece that’s six minutes long, and there are meeting points each minute. There’s a fixed cue the cellist plays at each minute, but in between it’s very free.

SL:  Freedom that gives rise to serendipitous moments — perhaps a musical accent coinciding with a sudden movement by a dancer.  The heightened awareness between musician and dancers also changes the audience experience.

KOD:  With leaving independence and space between sound and movement also allows the possibility of independence between interpreter and  viewer and that space for them to meet and for them to feel something that might be uniquely theirs.

SL:  O’Day is artistic director of the Kevin O’DayBallettNationaltheaterManheim in Germany. He’s created dozens of ballets with John King, whose works also include operas, chamber music and songs.

Choreographer Kevin O'Day talks with WRTI's Susan Lewis about how he and longtime collaborator, composer John King, create dance and music independently - and how the movement and music come together in the final creation.

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.