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Heaven and Earth
A Triple Bill Featuring Live Percussionists, a World Premiere, and Guest Choreographer Edwaard Liang
After two years of rescheduling, Eugene Ballet’s Heaven and Earth is finally landing on the Silva Concert Hall stage. Heaven and Earth combines a percussion work by internationally renowned artist Dr. Pius Cheung with new choreography by Eugene Ballet Resident Choreographer Suzanne Haag. Eugene Ballet dancers and Orchestra Next’s Percussion Ensemble—featuring Pius Cheung and Eriko Daimo—will perform together on stage.
Originally a 20-minute tone poem performed by percussionists only, Heaven and Earth explores the dynamic of the ethereal ideal of “heaven” and the powerful grounding of “earth.” After agreeing to collaborate with Haag, Cheung extended the piece to create a 40-minute score for the ballet.
“Pius’ composition is rather fluid and involves a fair amount of improvisation,” Haag said. “Heaven and Earth is played by the musicians taking cues off of each other to move on to the next section. This means my choreography and the dancers performing it need to be open to listening for transitions that could end up being 30 seconds earlier or later than expected.”
Another challenge for Haag was choreographing dancers that actually play the instruments. In the fourth movement of the eight-movement piece, gongs are suspended over the stage as dancers simultaneously move and hit the gongs in the right pattern creating the soundscape for this performance.
“My last few projects have been very driven by narrative,” Haag said. “This approach is less about story and more about pure movement representing music. I know collaborating this closely with a composer has changed how I think about movement and its relationship to music.”
Audiences will also experience the Oregon premiere of Age of Innocence, a contemporary and emotionally powerful work by Ballet Met’s Artistic Director Edwaard Liang. The score for this 30-minute ballet is a compilation of music by Philip Glass and Thomas Newman.
“While the theme of Age of Innocence looks back to the Regency Period, its manners and mores, the treatment of the subject matter is contemporary and technically demanding,” Eugene Ballet’s Artistic Director Toni Pimble said. “The restraint of the minimalist music and the spare set and costumes create a tension in the work that is palpable.”
Presenting works by other choreographers is important to Pimble, as it elevates the Company’s diverse range and expands the audience experience. Pimble says Liang’s choreography is “lyrical, restrained, and romantic.”
Opening the program is Haag’s Conduct (/kənˈdəkt/ or /ˈkänˌdəkt/). Set to music by Antonio Vivaldi, Conduct is a study of control, behavior, and transfer of energy. Conduct was originally choreographed for Texas Christian University and designed to be viewed by digital audiences during the pandemic. This is the first time Conduct will be experienced by live audiences.
“All three works are diverse in origin, theme, and style,” Pimble said. “Audiences will experience a program of challenging and exciting dance that inspires, delights, and stirs the emotions.”
“I always hope that the audience leaves a production wanting to see more dance because they saw, heard, or felt something that was both familiar and new to them,” Haag said. “For this production specifically, I hope that they leave feeling energized, excited and impressed by the talent of the artists (dancers and musicians) that we are fortunate enough to have in our community.”