Artistic director Peter London is never at a loss for words. That's especially true when he describes what compelled him to undertake two powerhouse pieces of music for his newest performance venture of the Peter London Global Dance Company, which will be held at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Carnival Theater this weekend.
The music in the upcoming program has been a vital part of London's development: Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Sergei Rachmaninoff's Concerto #2 in C Minor, Opus 18. Taking on the powerful music and riveting story is a daunting task. London cites his all-encompassing musical training at Juilliard as a major influence in his decision to grapple with Stravinsky’s magnanimous score.
“Stravinsky was the main attraction of the Western contemporary form of music," explains London. "I remember very clearly that once I knew we were studying The Rite of Spring, I could not sit on my chair. When I heard the music, it went straight into my psychological, spiritual system. It reminded me of the Yoruba sounds from Trinidad. I had heard this music since I was a young boy.”
London breaks into a singing chant showing how the folksy West African tonality and rhythms of the Yoruba music could be heard in the difficult Stravinsky score. Inspiring dancers to hear and count the erratic musical phrasing takes a lot of energy. “There are times you think you have it and it’s not it. It is an exhausting journey, not only emotionally, but physically to interpret, envision, and to realize this score.”
London has a global vision for his Rite of Spring. “I have taken aspects of various rites throughout the world and put them together. I am using the Yoruba gods and goddesses of nature — representing lightning, storms, oceans, rivers — and made them the four goddesses from the corners of the earth, and they open the dance.”
When asked if audience members will understand what each god or goddess represents, London says, “We live in a global city, so people in the audience are from all parts of the world. The movement is a cornucopia of ideas and images of what a rite of spring might be, based on these various cultures. Some people may recognize references, but it’s not necessary.”
London remains true to Stravinsky’s ritualistic story, including a sacrifice at the end. He calls the piece Journey because, for him, it is as much about the transition and growth one experiences throughout life as it is about this individual story.
As a fresh contrast to the Stravinsky ferocity, the other monster of music London is drawn to for this program is Rachmaninoff's Concerto #2 in C Minor, Opus 18. Going back to Juilliard, London says that his roommate, a music student, played and studied this particular piece of music throughout a period of two years. Lying in bed at night, London would hear the music over and over and, with his eyes closed, would see lights and colors, never knowing that one day these random visions would culminate in a ballet.
This Rachmaninoff piece, entitled Light, was a collaborative effort of choreography by London’s former students and PLGD dancers, who are now dancing in professional companies. London speaks highly of Justin Rapaport, who did much of the choreography and is now in Ballet BC in Vancouver, Canada. Rapaport led the final rehearsals by Skype, a unique use of technology.
“What Justin has done is so textured and rich for such a young man,” London says. “To create with such a level of simplicity, I think, is the hardest thing to do.
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“In this piece,” London adds, “I wanted the audience to be able to participate without being forced to do it. To sit back and let the music carry them — to let the light carry them.”
No holiday would be complete without a surprise, and London’s upcoming performances will be no different. London says the show will include the revelation of a fun and secret new piece that will speak to everyone.
—Cameron Basden, Artburstmiami.com
Peter London Global Dance Company. Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Arsht Center Carnival Studio Theater, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722; arshtcenter.org. Tickets cost $40, or $20 for students.