Waltz music is somewhat magical. The one-two-three, one-two-three is a rhythm that makes you feel like dancing.
Now, Ballet Idaho artistic director Peter Anastos is taking that to heart as he sets a new ballet to a whirling and expressive collection of Tchaikovskys waltzes.
Tchaikovsky was not only one of Russias greatest composers, he was one of the worlds greatest and one of the best to compose in 3/4 time. Choreographing the ballet, Anastos was inspired by the lush, rich compositions. The more he worked on the piece, the bigger it became in response to the music.
The guy was a waltz machine, Anastos says. He wrote some of the most beautiful waltzes for ballets, but there are so many other waltzes that people dont know.
Anastos Tchaikovsky Waltzes will close the companys Russian Program, which includes a performance of Act 3 from Glazunovs rarely performed Raymodas Wedding, and ballet master Alex Ossadniks take on Rimsky-Korsakovs Scheherazade.
Tchaikovsky wrote a bounty of ballets for the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres and ballet master Marius Petipa, including The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.
Tchaikovsky opens with the Garland Waltz, one of the composers most famous from The Sleeping Beauty, danced by the Ballet Idaho Academy students. (Disney fans will recognize it as the melody to Once Upon a Dream, from the 1959 animated film.)
Tchaikovsky also wrote waltzes in his orchestral suites, operas and sometimes as a musical exercise.
Youll hear all of those styles.
Several symphonic waltzes make up the meaty center of the ballet. Together they unfold as an impressionistic narrative if not an actual story as each is an interpretation of the music and perhaps the life of the composer.
The piece for five men is originally from the Third Orchestra Suite. Its got the flavor of folk music, so Anastos leaned heavily on a syllabus of character dance. Character dance is the study of folk dance mostly European that gives many ballets their character of nationality.
When you get in a studio, and everyone gets into the rhythm, Anastos says. Getting down on the floor and up in the air, and down, and up, it becomes this whole thing.
Learning those steps at least initially added to the difficulty of learning the choreography, says dancer James Brougham.
Its kind of a hybrid, Brougham says. It takes time to get to know it. The hardest part is when you have to think about whats coming next. And, yes, this is hard you never know what Peters going to do. But he knows what looks good, and the better you get, the harder he makes the choreography.
Thats part of the plan and the process of building a company and creating dancers, Anastos says.
Choreographers get into a room and create problems, he says. The dancers solve them. When you get talented people in front of you, you want to push them to go further. No one in ballet ever says, lets do a little bit less.
The ballet also suggests something about Tchaikovsky: He wrote beautiful music but led an emotionally conflicted and sad life. That sadness often underscores even his most beautiful and lively compositions, Anastos says.
Theres a waltz from the Third Orchestra Suite its lush and huge but its a very bleak landscape, and has a really desperate sort of soul, he says.
The section involves a young man an artist, danced by John Frazer who dances with the internal demons that torture him. Of course, this is ballet, so those demons are all long, leggy ballerinas.
He (Tchaikovsky) also wrote a gigantic canon of piano music, Anastos says. He had an enormous output, much bigger than Chopin.
Anastos, who dreamed of becoming a concert pianist before he saw his first ballet as a teenager, loves to choreograph piano waltzes.
He took four short piano waltzes and created the next movement of the ballet a series of beautifully lyrical and sweet pas de deux.
One is called Un Poco de Chopin (A little Chopin), an homage to the Polish pianist and composer. In the 19th century, Imperial Russian maestro Riccardo Drigo orchestrated it for Siegfried and Odette in Act IV of Swan Lake. When Anastos staged his Swan last season, he omitted it.
For me, it is always a cut, he says. Its already a long ballet, but Andrew (Taft) was very upset because he wanted to dance to it.
Now, Taft and Phyllis Rothwell Affrunti will perform it in the original form, as a simple piano waltz.