February 2010 Archives

The Creative Process: Some Personal Reflections


 Watching "Toy Box" begin to come together has been an absolutely fascinating experience.  In a rehearsal room, I'm used to being the dancer or the choreographer, the creator or the created-upon.  These days, I'm more observer.  That's not to say, of course, that I don't ever participate, I do, but it's more tangentially than usual--I'll spot a lift, suggest a solution, annotate a score.  I'm not an active participant in the same way that I am when I'm choreographing or dancing.

But this kind of distance has really allowed me to see this project from many angles--perhaps more so than I could have as either dancer or choreographer.  Because Rebecca has assigned each of the students to create some of the choreographic material and vocabulary, the rehearsal room is always bustling with creative energy and insight that I get to watch happen.  I'm beginning to see how the lizard dance will morph into the ballerina dance into the policeman dance.  

On the Music (and Musical Borrowings) of The Toy Box


Besides an homage to childhood, Debussy’s The Toy Box also seems to be a tribute to the works, and composers, that inspired him. The score is, in short, a collection of his favorite musical toys.

Most of the scholarship on the ballet concerns its presumed – and I use that word deliberately – fidelity to Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka. Robert Orledge suggests numerous references to Stravinsky’s score, the most significant, in his view, being a passage near the start of the score. A chain of chromatic thirds in Debussy’s prelude seemingly recalls the entrance of the ballerina in scene 2 of Stravinsky’s ballet. Moreover, in The Toy Box Punchinello is represented by a theme comprising alternating seconds; a comparison can perhaps be made to the alternating seconds representing the ghost of Petrushka, except that Debussy sticks to major seconds, while Stravinsky alternates major and minor. The two scores share the octatonic scale, although Stravinsky relies on it more heavily than Debussy, and there are some common instrumental choices (for example, snare drum rolls mark the transition between scenes). Yet the references to Petrushka, such as they are, mingle with echoes of other Stravinsky works, notably The Firebird and The Rite of Spring. Ultimately, Debussy proves too subtle a composer for musicological games of gotcha: he resists directly quoting Stravinsky’s melodies and harmonies. Instead he alludes to much more elusive things: the texture (thickness or thinness) of Stravinsky’s scoring in certain passages; the instrumental combinations he prefers; the registers within which real and invented snatches of folksong fall.


Official Poster for Table's Clear, Krazy Kat, the Toy Box

Creative Ideas from Krazy Kat

Tracy, the director of Krazy Kat, sent along some of the ideas that she has expressed to her class.  Take a look after the jump!

Three Minutes

The work started for real last week in Rebecca’s DAN 409 class. As of this Monday, we have a whole three minutes of the piece put together and lots more on the way! Students have each been given assignments to begin generating material while Rebecca works on the overall structure. The assignments have been based on different types of toys in a toy box: dolls, soldiers, stuffed animals, bouncy balls, and all other sorts of things that inspire children’s imaginations. We’ve also been looking at lots of youtube clips for inspiration! Hopefully we’ll get an update soon from Krazy Kat and the musicians! 

"An Evening of Enchantment": The Beginning

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And so we’ve begun! Monday, February 1, 2010 marked the first day of rehearsals for the project(s) that will ultimately result in “An Evening of Enchantment” at the Berlind Theater in April.   All the collaborators are excited and ready to go and I’m excited to get this blog off the ground and start documenting the process.

Given that you’ve made it over to our site, you may know what this project is all about but in case you don’t, here’s a little background:

“An Evening of Enchantment” will showcase three dance/theater premieres, “Table’s Clear,” “Krazy Kat,” and “The Toy Box.” Each focuses on themes of childhood and enchantment, but “Krazy Kat” and “The Toy Box” are also directly influenced by the jazz age and culture.

“Table’s Clear,” a musical work by Professor Paul Lansky, will be choreographed by Princeton dance faculty member Tina Fehlandt, a former dancer with the Mark Morris Dance Group, on three Princeton alumni, Julie Rubinger ’09, Jennie Scholick ’09 (me!), and Elizabeth Schwall ’09. This work will open the evening of performances.

“Krazy Kat” will be created by Tracy Bersley as a part of THR 311: Creating Character and Text. The music will be played live by the students of MUS 320: Jazz Performance Practice in Historical and Cultural Context, taught by Simon Morrison and Anthony Branker.   “Krazy Kat” by John Carpenter was the first example of jazz music being treated as high art—a topic that I hope Professor Morrison will later discuss in this blog. We also hope in later weeks to have Prof. Bersley, her students, and the students of MUS 320 write for this blog to share their personal artistic and creative reflections and processes.