Choreographer: Dwight Rhoden
Music: Ludwig van Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach
Costumes: Miho K. Morinoue
Lighting: Michael Korsch
World Premiere: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, March 15, 2001
PBT Performance Dates: March 2001, April 2003
Program Notes (from PBT playbill, 2003)
By Carol Meeder, former Director of Arts Education
Witnessing and experiencing the creative process during the making of a new ballet is a privilege for all of those involved. This includes not only the choreographer and dancers, but also the costume designer, lighting and set designers, in addition to the supporting artists and administrators who work tirelessly, and sometimes endlessly, to mount this work of art on the stage. Following the development of each facet from its inception through its evolution to performance is a front row seat to the ever-changing nature of art.
This new ballet is also accompanied by a special honor. The creation and performance of 7th Heaven is supported by the prestigious 2000 Choo-San Goh Award for Choreography from the Choo-San Goh & H. Robert Magee Foundation.
As Rhoden began to create this ballet, he started by placing himself “in-service” to the musical score. The challenges presented by the music of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 are what attracted him to the piece. He drew his inspiration from the density of the lush score that comes from its complex rhythmic structure. As with much of Beethoven’s music it combines classical rules with a kind of contemporary rebelliousness. The tremendous energy and depth of the music demands choreography that attempts to meet its complexity or it could be “eaten up by the music.”
Dwight Rhoden describes the choreographic style of 7th Heaven as having a “classical vocabulary with a contemporary torso.” The truth of that statement can only be realized by seeing the movements of the dancers as they execute classical footwork combined with a strength and power in the upper body, arms, and head that is not normally seen in a more traditional ballet.
The power of the music continuously builds tension, but choreographically leaves little room for the necessary release. To provide the rise and fall of emotion he envisioned, Rhoden exercises his artistic license by including excerpts from the music of Johann Sebastian Bach in his choreographic plan. Working together with PBT’s Orchestra Conductor, Akira Endo, segments from the Sonata No. 1 in g minor and Partita No. 1 in b minor for violin, and the Allemande from Suite No. 2 in d minor for violoncello are inserted between the movements of the Beethoven. Since the Bach music is for a solo string instrument, the opulence and complexity of the Beethoven is stripped away leaving a single line of music that provides the release for which he was striving. Ironically, this also provides another element of drama, a quality that is always evident in Dwight Rhoden’s choreography.
The cutting edge of this classically contemporary ballet also extends to the costumes. Miho Morinoue, a designer of Hawaiian heritage who is living and working in New York City, has created costumes that are futuristic and avant garde. She also was responsible for the costume designs for StrayLifeLushHorn, Rhoden’s offering for Pittsburgh Ballet’s Indigo In Motion. The tutus for 7th Heaven are constructed without tulle. They are made with a square fitting exactly into the circle, one complementing the other. Dwight Rhoden says that the design is a “subliminal message of the relationship of the choreography to the music and of contemporary to classic” – a perfectly wrapped package, smooth and sharp, tied with a big, full, cascading bow.