Liam Scarlett brings the buzz.
Ballet’s hottest choreographer makes dance headlines everywhere he goes with everything he does (when he recently gave up performing to focus on his artist in residence for The Royal Ballet it was breathlessly covered in no less than the ‘Wall Street Journal’).
Last year the 26-year-old Brit was commissioned by The Miami City Ballet to create the tumultuously-received “Viscera.” Now he is back with the world premier of a new ballet called “Euphotic,” which closes the MCB’s “Program II: Tradition and Innovation” this weekend at Broward Center before moving on to West Palm Beach’s Kravis Center next weekend.
I caught up with Scarlett at the end of a long day of rehearsal:
Q: You didn’t just create ‘Euphotic,’ you designed the costumes and the sets as well. Isn’t that a bit unusual for a choreographer? CLICK HERE FOR BLOG ENTRY ON COSTUMES
A: Yes, I guess so. For something this abstract and heavily-focused on the dance…I have this complete image in my mind. As I’m creating the steps I’m also creating and thinking about the costumes that might look good…that cut of a corset that might look good with the movement of an arm. And I do that with the sets as well. I enjoy painting and sketching in my own free time. It’s something I really enjoy. Hopefully everything will work in a very cohesive way.
Q: Why did you call it ‘Euphotic?’ I hear it’s very South Florida-ish.
A: I didn’t want it to be anything too literal or a dictionary type of definition. The translation means ‘well lit.’ I use it as that top layer of the ocean where the sunlight still penetrates the water. What I was trying to achieve was something very subliminal; the two opposing extremes of the ocean and sky. It’s like when you are in the ocean or in a pool and you’re underwater and you open your eyes and you get this wonderful play of light in the water. It’s so ambiguous and beautiful.
Q: For “Viscera” you used a Lowell Liebermann composition. Now for “Euphotic” you’re using his “Piano Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 36.” What was it about that music that resonated with you?
A: It’s a huge piece. I knew this piece would be a concluding ballet, that it would be closing the evening. I knew what the other ballets were and I was aware that it needed to balance out this program in some way and finish the evening in a sort of spectacular way. [The music] was incredibly different with these juxtaposing movements, each one a mini-work in itself. And I loved the sheer beauty and power of it. It was definitely made for a good closing. I saw him [Liebermann] in New York about a week ago. We have developed a close, personal friendship. Nowadays for a composer to write something so aesthetically beautiful and traditional with a contemporary twist is rare. I feel I have a deeper understanding of his work now.
Q: I read that when you finish one ballet you are immediately thinking of what you want to explore further with the next work. So what did you see in with the MCB company in “Viscera” that you wanted to continue with in “Euphotic?”
A: It wasn’t so much the movement as it was the actual dancers themselves. When I did ‘Viscera,’ that was the first time I worked with the company. Even though the piece was wonderfully received, I felt there was a lot more exploring I could do with these artists, pushing them even further. And there were some of them [dancers] that were in the back that last time…I wanted to bring them forward.
Q. You were first introduced to South Florida by Edward Villella. Now the MCB is being run by Lourdes Lopez. What’s that experience been like this time around? CLICK HERE TO SEE VIDEO ABOUT LOURDES LOPEZ
A: Lourdes is fantastic. I know her from Chris [Christopher Wheeldon, artistic associate at The Royal Ballet] and Morphosis [the company Lopez and Wheeldon co-founded in NYC]. When I found out she was here there was no hesitation or anything. The dancers are looking strong and the morale is very high. You can tell that everyone is very happy. You know, apprehension could be understandable when a new person with some new ideas and temperament comes in, but the transition was smooth and I couldn’t be happier. She has a lot of ambition and drive to move the company forward.
Q: I can tell that you and principal dancer Jeanette Delgado clicked last year. It must have been great to work together again.
A: We’ve become very good friends. We keep in contact on a regular basis. It was really nice to get back in the studio together and start creating. The best thing was that it took us all of about two minutes before we were rolling around on the floor laughing. And then we thought we should get on with some work.
Q: You were here in September for rehearsals and now you’re back again. So by now you must have some favorite SoFlo haunts to unwind after working all day, right?
A: There are some wonderful places on the beach. When I come here I eat and drink the most amazing food and enjoy cocktails I’ve never heard of before. It’s probably a good thing I don’t live here because I’d never do anything else.
IF YOU GO
Miami City Ballet’s “Program II: Tradition and Innovation”
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Where: Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 S. W. Fifth Avenue, Fort Lauderdale
Cost: Tickets start at $20 (balcony).
Contact: 877-929-7010 or MiamiCityBallet.org
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