Home Backstage BORDERLI

Return to BalletNotes Home Page

 

Borderlines

 

choreography: Graham Lustig

music: Steve Martland - Crossing the Border

costume design: Graham Lustig

lighting design: Alexander V. Nichols


 
 
 
Premiere of "Borderlines" by Sacramento Ballet, May 19, 1995
These notes compiled by, Gerard Charles, BalletMet Columbus, April 1995

 

 

 

 

Mr. Lustig says that at any one time he has a storeroom of possible ideas for ballets in his head. In the case of Borderlines the music was the source of inspiration. He had heard the music, Crossing the Border, by Steve Martland and was immediately interested in it. He has long been a fan of the English tradition of writing for strings (e.g. Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Britten and Tippet) and found in Crossing the Border a piece that carried that tradition through into a contemporary vein. Mr. Lustig describes the music as being minimalist inspired but with more emotion, having a language of its own. The themes are there but they are pulled further and further. As much as the music is a refraction of one idea, so Mr. Lustig views the six couples on stage as being reflections of one central relationship that has many facets. The intensity of the music is propulsive, gathering momentum, and for Mr. Lustig it seemed that the question was ‘how far would it go?’ He felt that at a given moment there would have to be a point where someone would have to declare a break. This sense of a decisive moment he mirrors in the choreography that he has created.

Entitled Borderlines because the ballet explores the perimeters of our surroundings, Mr. Lustig also conceived of expanding the literal borders of the stage. Beginning with a greatly closed in space, the stage literally expands until the traditional confines of the theater dissolve, leaving an untraditional open space on stage.

"It is only by crossing over borderlines that we discover their existence. Be they physical, intellectual or emotional, we are constantly redefining the borderlines that exist both within ourselves and in the world around us." - Graham Lustig.

In addition to the choreography, Mr. Lustig has also designed the costumes for many of his works. This was the case for Borderlines as he sought a fairly simple design to complement his movements.

Borderlines was created for the Sacramento Ballet in 1995 with the assistance of a grant from the Choo-San Goh and H. Robert Magee Foundation. This was the first time in seven years the company had worked on a ballet created for them and in such a different style. Borderlines, however, was completed in three weeks. BalletMet affords Mr. Lustig the first opportunity he has had since that time to restage Borderlines. He welcomed the chance to revisit the work, to fine tune the movements and to tailor it to a new set of dancers. The premiere performance took place May 19, 1995 in Sacramento, California. William Glackin of the Sacramento Bee said of the ballet "It's very different in style, constantly absorbing, abstract, yet passionately personal...."

Return to top of Borderlines

 

Graham Lustig, choreographer


 

Graham Lustig was born in Ealing, West London where he began to dance with a local dance teacher Pamela Howard. He was fortunate that Ms. Howard had a number of boys of different ages who took ballet at her school. Graham recalls that Ms. Howard encouraged the young dancers to make up dances and his first dance was created there, a solo for himself. It was about a refugee child, danced to a section of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. He also created some dances for the younger students for the school performances. In addition to school shows, he had the opportunity to do several performances with local musical theater groups, but it was not until he had completed grammar school (age 16) that ballet as a career took on a serious aspect. It was at this time that his father, who up until now had not shown a huge interest in dance as a career for his son, suggested an audition for the Royal Ballet School. Understanding that it was a long audition process Graham agreed, not 100% sure that he wanted this opportunity. After three different auditions and a physical he was accepted and felt that having come this far he should pursue his studies at the Royal Ballet School.

Although not accepted immediately into the Royal Ballet upon graduation, Graham considers himself lucky that this gave him the chance to dance with the Dutch National Ballet. It gave him an opportunity at an early age to expand his horizons. The Dutch National ballet had three resident choreographers, Rudi van Dantzig, Hans van Manen and Toer van Schaijk, constantly creating new work on the company in addition to their classical repertoire. There were also other choreographers whose works were often seen in Amsterdam but were not so often viewed in England. Mr. Lustig also benefited as a dancer. He was smaller in stature than the majority of the Dutch company and so immediately had to prove himself in soloist roles. He also benefited from daily coaching by Ivan Kramer.

While with the Dutch National Ballet he befriended a fellow dancer with whom he would listen to music and discuss choreography. This dancer was Choo-San Goh.

In 1977 Graham choreographed Thanatos Instinct to music of Leonard Salzedo, which earned him a Dutch Ministry of Culture grant for choreography. Having learned Dutch, Graham found himself a dancer representative and was instrumental in establishing the Dutch National Ballet Choreographic Workshop, an opportunity each year for dancers to present their works in the company’s home theater in Amsterdam. The second piece that Graham created for this workshop, After a Fashion, to piano music of Francis Poulenc, was taken into the repertoire of the Dutch National Ballet.

It was after working with Peter Wright (the director of the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet), on Giselle in Amsterdam in 1980 that Graham received the invitation to join his company. Having spent seven years in Amsterdam, Graham felt like it was a good time to return to England where he could continue to expand his dancing experiences and where there was a good opportunity for choreographing for the company. He also relished the idea of being able to work on a new ballet by Sir Kenneth MacMillan. Although he worked on many restagings of the choreographer’s works, unfortunately the new work never materialized.

As well as having opportunities to choreograph four works for the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet and receiving an Olivier Award nomination for his Inscape, Mr. Lustig, along with four fellow dancers, founded Dance Advance in 1984. The aim of the company was to collaborate on presenting small, new works to new music, performed live. They believed that ballet could present a contemporary expression of our time. Although classically based, the choreography was not conventional.

In 1987 Graham was awarded a Winston Churchill Traveling Fellowship and spent ten weeks visiting American dance companies. He also took part in the Carlisle Project, a foundation course for classically based choreographers to which he was invited the following year for a residency. There he created Arcanum to music of Arvo Pärt and Antonio Vivaldi.

The move of the Sadler’s Wells company to Birmingham in 1990 served as a catalyst to Graham’s decision to pursue his career in choreography on a full time basis. For the first year of the Birmingham residency Graham was engaged on a guest contract as Principal Character Artist. This allowed him the benefits of continued dancing opportunities with the company but without the restrictions that full time employment places on the ability to accept outside commissions.

Since that time Mr. Lustig has been in increasing demand worldwide as a choreographer. Commencing January 1994 he began a three year affiliation with the Washington Ballet where he was appointed Choreographer-in -Residence. In May 1997 he will create a new work for the North Carolina Dance Theater. He also serves on the board of the Choo-San Goh and H. Robert Magee Foundation and is on the awards committee for that foundation.

 

Choreography to date (February 1997)

 

 Year  Title  Music  1st. Performance
 1977  Thanatos Instinct Leonard Salzedo Nel Roos Academy, Holland
 1978  As Time Goes By Wim Vallenkamp Dutch National Ballet Choreographic Workshop
 1979  After A Fashion Francis Poulenc Choreographic Workshop, taken into repertoire of the Dutch National Ballet
1981 First Time, Second Time, Claude Debussy (Sonata for Violin & Piano) Sadler’s Wells choreographic evening
 1984  Six of One Igor Stravinsky (Four Norwegian Moods) Royal Ballet Choreographic workshop
   Round and Round Christopher Williams (commissioned) Dance Advance
   Triptych Walter Fabeck (commissioned) Dance Advance
   Limelight Beethoven Ashton Choreographic Award
 1985  5,6,7, From Scratch 567,789 Cologne Choreographic Forum
   Across the Sky Peter MacGowan (commissioned) National Youth Ballet
Winner of 3rd Prize at Cologne Choreographic Competition 1986
   Caught in Time Walter Leigh (Concerto for Harpsichord & Strings) Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet
   Twos Blues George Gershwin (Three Piano Preludes) Christmas charity gala
 1986 ‘A’ Level syllabus for the University of London    
1987  Paramour Francis Poulenc (Concerto for Two Pianos) Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet
   Chapel Towners Chick Corea (Children’s Songs) Northern Contemporary Dance School
1988 The Edge of Silence Alfred Schnittke (concerto for Piano & Strings)  Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet
  Tchaikovsky’s Women   for Channel 4 Television
   Arcanum Arvo Pärt & Vivaldi Carlisle Project Showcase
 1989  Peter Pan (3 Acts) Edward McGuire (Commissioned) Scottish Ballet
 

 Evening

 

Benjamin Britten (Serenade for Tenor, horn & Strings)

Introdans, Holland

 

 1990 Uncertain Steps J.S. Bach (Cello Suite No. 6) Introdans, Holland
   Inscape Peter MacGowan (Commissioned) Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet
   Asabiyya Theo Lovendie (Six Turkish Poems) Introdans, Holland
 1991  Natalon Simon Ten Holt (Natalon for solo piano) British Gas Central Ballet
   When She Danced Frederic Chopin Choreography for a play by Martin Sherman. Starring Vanessa Redgrave as Isadora Duncan
 1992  George’s Day Out  Willem Jeths (Arcate and Morpheus) Introdans, Holland
   The Shrew Collage of Italian music Introdans, Holland
 1993  D’Ensemble Antonin Dvorak (Serenade for wind instruments) Northern Ballet Theatre
 

 Appassionato

 

Franz Liszt (Mephisto Waltz No 1 and Harmonie Peotiques et Religeuses) Singapore Dance Theatre
   Transit Conlon Nancarrow (Studies for the Player Piano) Introdans, Holland
 1994 Hearts of Light Sir Michael Tippet (Fantasia on a Theme of Corelli) Washington Ballet
   Flip Side Derek Holbrook (Commissioned) Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre
 1995  Disappointment Lake John Adams (Disappointment Lake) Ballet Jörgen, Toronto
 

 A Far Cry

 

John Adams (The Chairman Dances plus Christian Zeal and Activity)

Hartford Ballet

 

   Borderlines Steve Martland (Crossing the Border) Sacramento Ballet
 1996  Urban Tangos Tangos by Piazolla, Hoomerson & Van Dijken Hartford Ballet
   Cinderella Sergei Prokofiev Singapore Dance Theatre

 

Return to top of Borderlines

 

The Music


The composition of Crossing the Border, for string orchestra(8, 8 ,4, 4, 2), is a response to J.S. Bach’s Chaconne in D Minor for solo violin. One feature of the Chaconne is a constant acceleration of rhythmic activity over a steady pulse, a feature of Crossing the Border as well. The title reflects Mr. Martland’s preoccupation with the social function of the artist, he feels all stages of his work from composition to final consumption are as political as they are entwined. His ideal is to make the world a better place.

 

Crossing the Border was first performed October 10, 1991, as part of "The Way" festival, by the Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Mr. Martland in the Old Town Hall of Gdansk, Poland.

"Friday, October 11th 1991, 5 am: Board train at Gdansk, Poland - Warsaw bound - the morning after conducting the first performance of Crossing the Border. 9 pm: En route to North Wales, board crowded Liverpool-bound train at Euston, London. People on their way home after working (or in many cases looking for work) in London. Opposite me are two young workers. They distract me from my book, offer me a beer and start a conversation. The first, unable to find work in Liverpool, has been working as a painter on an industrial site for three weeks and living in the YMCA. The second (another Steve) is a brickie. Also unable to find work at home in Liverpool, he's walked the streets for three weeks. At night he slept in doorways. ‘What do you do Steve?’ (asks Steve) ‘Er, I'm a composer.’ " - Steve Martland.

Return to top of Borderlines

 

Steve Martland, composer


 

Mr. Martland originally planned a career in the Royal Navy, but ended up studying composition from Louis Andriessen at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague, Holland. Born in Liverpool, England in 1959 he graduated from Liverpool University and was awarded the Mendelssohn scholarship for Babi Yar. In 1984 he spent time studying composition with Gunther Schuller at the Berkshire Music Center, Tanglewood. In 1985 he graduated from the Hague Conservatory and was awarded the Government Composition prize.

With the exception of his symphonic poem Babi Yar Martland has chosen to avoid the standard concert-hall forms. With Andriessen he developed a taste for "dirty minimalism" who also taught "you compose music about the music you love."

Martland draws on earlier music conventions, (e.g. the medieval repetition of melodic and rhythmic material, cannons and the hocket techniques. Remembering Lenon treats Imagine as a Cantus Firmus.) but mixes them with his preference for contemporary instruments, and an attitude to performance, outside the classical tradition.

Mr. Martland has chosen to work with smaller ensembles and prefers to work in direct contact with students or contemporary musicians. He formed the Steve Martland Band which is committed to education and has taken part in projects in prisons, community centers, schools and out into the street.

"The band’s important to me; I'm amazingly lucky to have a group of people who want to play my music. And I know their names...There's nothing more dispiriting than writing a piece for people who don't want to play it."

He is also a gifted and giving teacher.

Where art impinges on the realities of life Steve Martland’s music speaks with a refreshing directness, raising social issues and philosophical questions of importance to our age. His refusal to conform as a stereotypical composer and his outspoken criticism of the middle-class British music establishment have made him a controversial figure. He has been described as the figurehead of the "British New Wave" - a term he is naturally skeptical of. He leans towards socialist politics and has worked with Test Dept, the metalbashing agitrock organization.

Although he is a lyricist as well, most striking is the rhythmic verve of his work whose melodic style can achieve a rapt, almost spiritual communication.

Of Mr. Martland’s music, Louis Andriessen has written, "It sounds sometimes simple, but it is complex. Sometimes it sounds very complicated, but in reality it is very clear. This is what I would call a ‘dialectical’ approach to composing, and in the long term the best attitude towards creating something that could be understood as beautiful."

Mr. Martland likes his music to be played amplified and loud.

Selected Works (to February 1997)

 

 1981  Lotta continua, for orchestra and jazz band. Revised 1984
   Remembering Lennon. Revised 1985
 1982  Duo for trumpet and piano
   Canto a la Esperanza, soprano guitar and chamber orchestra
   Kgakala, piano
 1983  Babi Yar for orchestra
 1984  Orc for horn and small orchestra
 1985  American Invention
 1986 Dividing the Lines for brass band
   Remix for jazz ensemble
   Shoulder to Shoulder
 1987  Divisions, electronic tape
   El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido
   Drill, 2 pianos
   Big Mac I/II
 1988  Albion, tape and film 1987
   Glad Day, 3 songs
 1989  Skywalk
   Terra Firma
   Principia for jazz ensemble
   Birthday Hocket, for 2 pianos
 1991  Crossing the Border for string orchestra (revised 1992)
   The Perfect Act for voice and assorted instruments
   Wolf-gang
 1992  Patrol, string quartet
   Bach Toccata and Fugue BWV565 arr. for string quartet
 1993  Dance Works for assorted instruments. Also 2 piano version
   Full Fathom Five for brass quintet
 1994   Mr. Anderson’s Pavane
 1995  Beat the Retreat
   Horses of Instruction for assorted instruments
 1996   Kick for 11 players

 

Return to top of Borderlines

Return to BalletNotes Home Page