Dada, Meet Futurism

SYZYGY and the Meadows Percussion Ensemble team with Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet to present an eclectic, electric performance of bold music, choreography ... and a propeller or two, April 30 at Dallas City Performance Hall

Photos courtesy of Pamela Pagels

Works to be previewed at Meadows School concerts, April 3 and 5

Outrageous compositions, choreography and costumes mesh in “Futurisme à Pied,” the second collaboration between Meadows School of the Arts and Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet (DNCB), on Sunday, April 30 at 7 p.m. at Dallas City Performance Hall.

Forty-five music students from two Meadows School music ensembles will play an unusual set of compositions, starting with the SYZYGY contemporary music ensemble performing Erik Satie’s innovative Parade, created in 1917 for the Ballets Russes and inspired by Jean Cocteau. Dance costumes for the 1917 production were designed by Pablo Picasso; for the April 30 performance, DNCB dancers will wear costumes envisioned by artist Francisco Moreno, inspired by Picasso’s Cubist creations but designed with a modern twist.

SYZYGY will then be joined by members of the Meadows Percussion Ensemble to premiere 391, a new work by SYZYGY director Lane Harder. 391 was inspired by the Barcelona-based Dadaist magazine of the same name popular between 1917 and 1924. Harder received a grant from the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs to create the new work, which embodies several genres of music. Original choreography for 391 was created by DNCB Artistic Director Emilie Skinner.

Edgard Varèse’s dramatic Ionisation opens the second half of the concert. A score created for 13 percussionists, Ionisation is “a masterpiece written for unpitched instruments,” according to Percussion Ensemble Director Jon D. Lee. “This piece was written between two wars,” says Lee. “It is considered one of the most challenging and avant-garde percussion compositions ever created.” In addition to drums, the composition includes piano, glockenspiel and air raid sirens. Critics have described the piece as “Genuinely groundbreaking ... ‘like an object coming from Mars’ ...” and one that “... dramatically raised the bar for virtuosity among percussionists ...” (New York Times).

The program will conclude with the groundbreaking Ballet Mécanique by George Antheil, with choreography by DNCB Ballet Mistress and Principal Dancer Erin Boone. The 16-minute piece is an anthem to both machinery and stamina. In addition to four pianists, electric alarm bells and percussion instruments of every kind, Ballet Mécanique is a fast-paced, breathtaking composition that also includes a custom-made airplane propeller modeled after propellers on the World War I Sopwith Camel biplane.

Ballet Mécanique is a celebration of machines,” says Lee. “Antheil originally wrote the first version in 1924 to accompany a film by the same name. It was scored for 16 specially synchronized player pianos, two grand pianos, electronic bells, xylophones, bass drums, a siren and three airplane propellers, but the technology of that time didn’t allow for the mechanical player pianos to sync up.” According to Lee, Antheil rewrote the piece in 1926 and again in 1953, the latter for four human pianists and 12 percussionists. The 1953 version includes two electric bells and two propellers. The challenging piece is rarely attempted by percussion ensembles, according to Lee, and was last performed in Texas in Austin circa 2007 and was once performed at Meadows School of the Arts in the 1980s.

Futurisme à Pied

Performances and tickets

Leading up to the April 30 concert at Dallas City Performance Hall, SYZYGY and the Meadows Percussion Ensemble will perform selections from the show at SMU Meadows Caruth Auditorium. On April 3, the ensembles will perform Parade and Ballet Mécanique, among other numbers, at 7:30 p.m. On April 5, the Percussion Ensemble will perform Ballet Mécanique and Ionisation, among other numbers, at 7:30. Both the April 3 and 5 shows at SMU Meadows are free to the public.

Tickets for the April 30 “Futurisme à Pied” afternoon performance with Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet at Dallas City Performance Hall range from $14 to $44 and can be acquired through TicketDFW. Proceeds from the April 30 show benefit the nonprofit Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet company.

Read more about Meadows Percussion Ensemble and SYZYGY.

Read more about The Dallas Morning News story about the collaboration of dancers and musicians.