A world of artistic talent and performing experience converges for James Sewell Ballet’s spring performances on the stage of the Goodale Theater at The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts.
In a collaboration of The Schubert Club and James Sewell Ballet, the Grammy Award winning Parker Quartet and JSB dancers come together in a reprise of Artistic Director James Sewell’s “Opus 131,” Beethoven’s exquisite String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor.
The second half of the program will push JSB’s creative frontiers to the nexus of Argentine tango, ballet, and contact improvisation with the world premiere of “A Sound Embrace.” Choreographed by Sewell and guest artist Sabine Ibes, the 30-minute work will be performed to traditional tango music, Bach, and other music styles not usually associated with the tango.
“The evening,” said Sewell, “will be like a meal consisting of the Beethoven as a main course complemented nicely with the tango as a dessert.”
Beethoven completed his Opus 131 in 1826, the year before his death. The 40-minute work and its seven movements are played through without pause, and the choreography is set tightly without narrative.
Each movement has a distinct feeling. The music and dance begin with sublime innocence, like the evolution of a society. In the middle, the scherzo feels like a children’s game with some comic moments. Further on, the romance of the music lends itself to a pas de deux. The last movement serves as a glossary, explaining all, and breaking all the rules.
Created for six dancers at its 1995 premiere at The O’Shaughnessy in St. Paul, “Opus 131” featured three partnered pairings by Anna Laghezza and Sewell, Sally Rousse and Christian Burns, andPenelope Freeh and Joel Klausler.
When reprised during the 2003-04 season, Sewell expanded the work to four partnerings: Freeh and Matthew Keefe, Rousse and Sewell, Peggy Seipp and Benjamin Johnson, and Julia Welsh and Justin Leaf. The 2012 iteration will feature seven dancers.
Sewell discovered tango three years ago when he began studying with Sabine Ibes, his choreographic collaborator on the creation of “A Sound Embrace.” Examining the commonalities of ballet and tango has been new for both of them.
The tightly structured, 30-minute work for eight dancers, will include improvisational elements that are common both to tango and to contact improvisation.
“Tango,” Sewell explained, “is all about the embrace and the connections between two partners. The work will be a journey of movement and relationships from beginning to end. Who leads and who follows may vary over time.”
As Ibes noted, “Aspects of relationships, such as anxiety and relaxation, get conveyed through in-the-moment connections and not necessarily through the mastery of particular footwork.”
While tango music is often associated with piano, violin, and bandoneón, Sewell and Ibes will add some Piazzolla, Bach, and other styles to the mix.
The Parker Quartet began its professional touring career in 2002. It served as Quartet-in-Residence with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra from 2008 through 2010, and its members were the first Artists-in-Residence with Minnesota Public Radio for the 2009-2010 season.
The musicians hold graduate degrees in performance and chamber music from the New England Conservatory of Music. Their mentors include the Cleveland Quartet, Kim Kashkashian, György Kurtág, and Rainer Schmidt.
Performance highlights of the current season include a European tour, with appearances at Wigmore Hall inLondon, Stadthalle Marburg, Kultur im Oberäu, and Concerts Classiques d’Épinal; appearances with pianist Shai Wosner at Amherst College and Carnegie Hall; and visits to the Eastman School of Music, San Francisco State University, and UCLA.
This season, the quartet also has partnered with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in presenting a series of performances in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The group’s second recording, of György Ligeti’s String Quartets Nos. 1 and 2 and Andante & Allegretto, won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance. www.parkerquartet.com
Ibes began her dance studies in jazz, ballet, and ballroom at a young age. Born in the Netherlands, she moved to the United States in 1990 and has studied Argentine tango here, in Buenos Aires, and in other cities since 2003. She danced in “Maria de Buenos Aires,” the 2005 tango opera production by Theatre de la Jeune Lune. Ibes helped create the University of Minnesota’s Argentine tango club, organizes workshops and festivals in the Twin Cities, and teaches at the Social Dance Studio in Minneapolis. She is the parent of three daughters, and works with her husband in their family company. http://tangoandi.com
James Sewell Ballet creates and performs contemporary ballet. The ensemble performs in its home city of Minneapolis three times annually, and has toured to more than 300 domestic and international venues since its founding in 1990. Its current roster of dancers includes Nicky Coelho, Leah Gallas, Cory Goei, Chris Hannon, Nic Lincoln, Eve Schulte, and Sally Rousse, guest artist. www.jsballet.org
The performance schedule is Fri.-Sat., Apr. 13-14 & 20-21, 8pm; Sun., Apr. 15 & 22, 2pm: Reserved seating, $32 & $26 adults, $16 students. First Chance Dance (one hour program): Sat., Apr. 21, 11am. All seats $10, general admission; children aged 3 and under are invited to attend for free.
The Goodale Theater at The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts is located at 516 Hennepin Avenue, in downtown Minneapolis. Tickets may be purchased in person, by phone at612.206.3600, or online at www.thecowlescenter.org.