Bach Society adds ballet to Vivaldi classic

2014-08-21T00:00:00Z Bach Society adds ballet to Vivaldi classicBy Chuck Graham For the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Of course marriage had a hand in the upcoming fusion of contemporary ballet with composer Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” this weekend, ending the 26th year of summer concerts presented by the St. Andrew’s Bach Society.

Ashley Bowman is a co-founder, along with Claire Hancock, of the innovative Artifact Dance Project. Bowman is also married to violinist Ben Nisbet, in his third year as artistic director of the Bach Society.

“I always want to close out every SABS season with something big, which always means a collaboration with somebody,” Nisbet said. “For a long time now, Ashley and I have talked about doing ‘The Four Seasons.’ This time, everything just fell into place, musically and logistically.”

Members of the SABS Orchestra, led by Tucson Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Lauren Roth, will be matched with a 12-member dance ensemble selected by Bowman (“Autumn”) and Hancock (“Summer”) — who are two of the four choreographers sharing those seasons. Joining them are guest choreographers Tamara Dyke-Compton (“Spring”) and Chris Compton (“Winter”).

“The dance will be contemporary ballet,” Hancock said, “with each choreographer blending different elements, using a different dance language, and interpreting the music in a different way.”

All the collaborating artists agree their emphasis will be on the music and the movement, enhanced by the lighting design of Don Fox, who did the lighting for Arizona Onstage Productions’ recent “Les Miserables.”

“We want our dance to give the audience a heightened experience of the music,” Hancock said. “Overall, the choreography will be much like what people expect from Artifact’s own concerts. I think it does end up being light and whimsical, in its own way.”

“The music can be very literal at times,” Nisbet added. “For example, it is actually written in the score in Italian, ‘Leaves are rustling.’”

The costumes will not distract audience members from the performance’s primary elements.

“The costumes will be very simple,” Bowman said, “and will stay the same through the whole ballet. Nobody will wear a fur coat during ‘Winter’ or anything like that. Each season has three movements. Each will have a different mood. So some will be humorous, yes, along with other more serious moments.”

The 18th-century Italian composer’s work is regarded as a masterpiece.

“Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ is one of the most frequently performed in the world, particularly in the 20th century,” Nesbit said. “We do classical music, not pops concerts. But we always want to present music audiences will love.”

Freelance writer Chuck Graham has covered the Tucson arts scene for more than 30 years.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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