David Nixon may be gone, but his legacy of story ballets still delights us. Nixon was BalletMet's artistic director from 1994 through 2001. Exactly 10 years ago, in February 2000, the company premiered A Midsummer Night's Dream, his two-act ballet based on Shakespeare's comedy and using the music of Felix Mendelssohn.
David Nixon may be gone, but his legacy of story ballets still delights us.
Nixon was BalletMet's artistic director from 1994 through 2001. Exactly 10 years ago, in February 2000, the company premiered A Midsummer Night's Dream, his two-act ballet based on Shakespeare's comedy and using the music of Felix Mendelssohn.
Like many choreographers before him, Nixon streamlined Shakespeare's story, focusing on the four lovers and the romantic interlude between a transformed Bottom and a bewitched Titania.
In Nixon's original version, the story unfolded in the first act, with the second act devoted to a celebration of the resulting multiple marriages. He also crafted a revised, one-act version, which BalletMet staged in February 2003.
"David left all the storytelling intact but deleted the extended divertissements of the original second act," explained Gerard Charles, BalletMet's current artistic director.
"In addition, he also revisited some choreographic moments that he wished to amend following the ballet's premiere. However, these adjustments in no way change the interpretation of the original."
Now in February 2010, BalletMet brings back Nixon's A Midsummer Night's Dream in time for the midwinter season for lovers. As an extra treat, the company also presents a world premiere by Ma Cong.
"World" describes Cong's Temporal aptly: a Chinese-American choreographer, African jazz music, a Mediterranean flavor and East Indian-inspired costumes.
"I was trained at Beijing Dance Academy as a Chinese folk dancer ... from age 10 to 17," Cong said. "We are supposed to learn many different types of dance."
Cong was especially struck by the similarities between Chinese and Mediterranean styles.
"We have very similar arm and hand shapes, similar upper body movement," he explained. "By the early '80s, Indian culture was introduced to China, and got very popular. I was very inspired by their body arts [and] body paint."
When he arrived in the United States in 1999, Cong also fell in love with jazz.
"I have always wanted to do a work that can give such an interesting mix of all those cultures from different parts of the world," he said.
Temporal includes jazz by Tunisian composers Dhafer Youssef and Anouar Brahem, both of whom play the oud, the Middle Eastern lute.
As BalletMet's Charles described Cong's work, "The essence of his piece is the timeless yet evolving relationships between men and women."
The warmth of a midsummer's night and the intimacy of human connections add up to a midwinter Valentine for Columbus ballet fans.