Oct. 14, 2014 03:30 PM

The Acadiana Symphony Orchestra teams up with choreographer Clare Cook for a modern take on a Stravinsky classic.

The Acadiana Symphony Orchestra teams up with choreographer Clare Cook for a modern take on a Stravinsky classic.

By Nicole LaCour

Acadiana Symphony Orchestra continues its Fire series with the Oct. 18 performance of Stravinsky's Firebird, featuring original choreography by Clare Cook. A native of Lafayette, Cook is bringing members of her New York company together with several Lafayette dancers to perform a modern version of the classic ballet.

Photos by Molly Torian

Firebird is a Russian folktale featuring a magical creature and explores the dynamic of good and evil. Cook introduces a modern spin on the traditional morality tale. Through the use of modern dance movements and innovative costume design, Cook explores ideas about "what it means to be fully human and honest and intuitively connected to nature, contrasted against what it means to be controlled by outside forces."

The original Firebird, now seen as a cornerstone in ballet and orchestral repertoires, was controversial to 1910 concert audiences. Stravinsky, having fled Russia for Paris, was asked by his fellow ex-patriot Sergei Diaghilev to compose music for his new ballet. Both the choreography and composition were revolutionary, with Stravinsky's wild dissonances and emotive expressions not heard in the concert halls of the day. The performance was popular with the Paris audience and made Stravinsky a star. It was the first of three such collaborations that continued to revolutionize the presentation of classic, Russian ballet and orchestral music.

With her collaboration with ASO, Cook is once again turning tradition on its head. Her Firebird will have no pointe shoes or tutus. Instead, a flowing costume will illustrate the ethereal, all-wise magical creature while other characters, bound by evil forces, will wear more rigid forms inspired by 1950s fashion, evil comic book villains and even Mexican skull art.

Born and educated in Lafayette, Cook is excited about bringing together professional dancers in Lafayette with dancers from New York. Through this collaboration Cook hopes to contribute to the nurturing of dance performance in Lafayette. Her group will be conducting outreach activities in Lafayette Parish schools during their stay.

"I see the Firebird as a strong and powerful character based on feminine intuition, wisdom and elements spiritual, earthly and fantastical," Cook says. In the end, Cook's Firebird brings restoration to characters under the spell and corruptive influence of power and the goodness in all is revealed.

For Maestro Mariusz Smolij, Firebird is a continuation of ASO's effort to bridge the known with the unknown, providing a conduit for an audience to experience orchestral works in a new way. "You might not know about Stravinsky, but you know the idea of fire creating warmth, creating excitement or possibly creating destruction," Smolij says. "This is familiar to anyone. You introduce this familiar, known element to the music and you create relevance for the audience."

Firebird: Music Tells A Story
Saturday, October 18, 6:30pm
Heymann Performing Arts Center
Guest Artist:
Clare Cook Dance Theater, New York

Arturo Marquez Danzon No. 2
Aram Khatchaturian Dance scenes from Ballet Spartacus
Richard Strauss Waltzes from "Rosenkavalier"
Igor Stravinsky Firebird Suite: A Classic Story in Modern Dance
Tickets: 337-232-4277, ext. 1


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