Scottish Ballet Prepares for Upcoming Music Center Debut
Dancer Owen Thorne was born in New Orleans and hails from Nashville, Tennessee. In 2009 he received an invitation from Artistic Director Ashley Page to join the the Scottish Ballet company and has since performed well-received roles in over a dozen ballets, from the Jabberwock in the ballet adaptation of Alice in Wonderland to Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet.
The Scottish Ballet will perform two ballets with Thorne playing lead roles: “Song of the Earth,” choreographed by Tony-award winner Sir Kenneth MacMillan and set to Gustav Mahler’s song cycle “Das Leid von der Erde,” is a reflection on life, love, and the inevitability of death. Created especially by Jorma Elo for the Scottish ballet, "Kings 2 End” plays in deliberate, sharp contrast. Contemporary composer Steve Reich contributed his “Double Sextet,” a piece that intertwines several melodic lines at once to create what Reich calls “an interesting situation,” and W. A. Mozart’s classically-styled “Violin Concerto No. 1” is the foil, resulting in a ballet that juxtaposes movements of power and fluidity.
Thorne passed out a page from his mental diary and described the journey of creating the emotionally gripping performance renditions. Both ballets require more than exquisite dancing to convey their full promise.
Rehearsals for the performances were “intense,” Thorne reports emphatically. The music of “Song of the Earth” lacks a strong rhythmic foundation under flowing melodies, presenting a problem in sensing tempos; “Kings 2 Ends” is all speed and angled limbs situated around what Thorne generously characterizes as “complicated counts.”
“Song of the Earth” “requires a strong classical base,” but for “Kings 2 End,” “a lot of it is quite funky. You sort of break it down and get funky with it, do a big jump and go into something very fluid. Finding that balance is extremely challenging. It’s quite impressive, a crowd pleaser. It doesn’t have any dull moments.”
His experience working with Jorma Elo, resident choreographer of the Boston Ballet, was enlightening. Of the company members, Elo “was intent on discovering who they were as people and who they were as dancers,” Thorne says. “He would just look at you and say, ‘Hmm....Less David Hasselhoff. More ‘don’t dance yourself, just be yourself.’”
Of course, it’s easier to be a character than be yourself, Thorne adds, “and it’s harder to express your own motivations than a character’s. It goes back to the quote, “Give a man a mask, and he’ll show you his true face. Putting on the mask, you’re hidden, you feel safe. It’s much harder to take the armor off and just show yourself, but it’s also much more rewarding. You learn a lot about yourself.”
The interpretations of each ballet are as converse as their technical approaches. A Messenger of Death, a presence “sometimes menacing and sometimes welcoming,” lies in wait throughout “Song of the Earth,” and two lovers must accept mortality along with the hope of restoration after death. The meaning of “Kings 2 End”? That’s up to you.
“The overriding theme,” Thorne explains, “is that there is no theme. “[Elo] intended the audience to find their own meaning to it themselves. It works very well with ‘Song of the Earth,’ which has very intense and deep meaning.”
Thorne recommends audience members read the program notes and sit in on the pre-show talks to get the full benefit of the performance. The ballets may lean toward the abstract and idiosyncratic, but viewers should fully expect to get chills, just as Thorne does every time he observes staging of the works. The real meaning, he says, is found in the lack of narration.
Thorne muses, “Taking away words can somehow say it more eloquently. When it’s said, it's cliche, but when it’s danced, it’s profound.”
Performances by the Scottish Ballet will be held Friday, October 14 through Sunday, October 16 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles. Call (213) 972-0711 for ticket information, or visit the website.
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