Creativity can be difficult. In fact, it can be downright scary, especially when the material’s focus is the creative process itself. Just ask choreographer Daniel Ojeda, who is at work on a new ballet about the relationship between art and the artist.
“It’s the most personal thing I’ve made so far,” Ojeda says. “It’s about what I do. Putting personal things on stage is difficult. I relate to the artist character, her struggles — they are my own.”
Now, add the fact that Ojeda is working with original music by Idaho composers Jeremy Stewart and Daniel Kerr, and the stakes go even higher. It’s the first time in memory that Ballet Idaho has commissioned original music for a new ballet.
Boise Baroque Chamber Orchestra will play Stewart and Kerr’s score for the performance as well as Bach’s Concerto in D minor for Two Violins for a staging of Balanchine’s “Concerto Barocco.”
The evening fulfills a promise Ballet Idaho Artistic Director Peter Anastos made when he took over the company in 2008: to regularly pair live music with dance.
Ojeda’s “The Monster and the Gift” focuses on an artist who is trying to make sense of her life through the successes and failures of her all-consuming work. The story is inspired by an event by performance artist Marina Abramović at a New York Museum of Modern Art show in 2012.
Abramović shared a moment of silence with a stranger who would sit in front of her. The deeply emotional reactions were the subject of the documentary “The Artist is Present.”
“The monster is in reference to the artist, the gift is the talent,” Ojeda says.
The idea came together quickly last year when Anastos approached Ojeda about creating his second full-length ballet for the company.
“I wanted to do an intensely collaborative ballet,” he says. “I had an idea for a long time to work with a visual artist.”
He chose Boise abstract artist Huma Aatifi. The idea of collaboration led him to tap Stewart and Kerr, two musicians he met and worked with on projects such as last year’s “Viewers Like You,” a collaboration with Boise band Thick Business, for which Kerr sings and plays bass.
In that project, Ojeda used the band’s original songs, but they were songs that already existed. This is Ojeda’s first time creating to music no one has played before.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he says.
Kerr and Stewart met at Boise State, where Stewart is earning his master’s degree in music. They collaborated on the soundtrack for writer Alan Heathcock’s film “Smoke.” (The short film based on one of Heathcock’s stories from his award-winning “Volt” is now available to watch for free at Vimeo.com.) Read the related story here.)
Once Ojeda heard that score, he approached the composers with the idea for “Monster.”
Ojeda would provide a piece of the story, the musicians would compose, and the creative ball would go back and forth as they fused movement and music. Then Aatifi would bring in one of her paintings and things would ramp up.
“We’d be like ‘Sick! Great. That’s good.’ She’s like this perfect balance between expression and execution. She doesn’t have anything that bogs her down,” Ojeda says.
Now that the performance is approaching, Stewart and Kerr are delivering completed music to Ojeda and the dancers, who have been building the ballet’s eight movements with electronic recordings.
They all will hear it live for the first time during rehearsals at the Morrison Center.
“It’s scary for all of us,” Ojeda says “The amount of trust we have to place in each other is insane, especially considering that this is my second full-length ballet and their first classical score. There’s a lot on the line.”
Ballet Idaho ‘Winter Repertory’
8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, and Saturday, Feb. 11, Morrison Center, 2201 Cesar Chavez Lane, Boise. $38, $43 and $58. Ticketmaster.