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Program Notes

Partner: Ballet Memphis

Stravinsky: Pulcinella Suite
Milhaud: Le boeuf sur le toit
Beethoven: Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92

Dance and music are natural partners, and so are IRIS and Ballet Memphis, who come together for the first time for the final program of the season. Ballet Memphis has helped redefine the cultural landscape of the mid-South. In 25 years, it has grown from an inspired idea in the mind of its founder to a nationally recognized arts organization, heralded by the Ford Foundation as a “national treasure,” and performing on all the leading dance stages in the U.S., including Jacob’s Pillow, the Joyce Theater, and the Kennedy Center. Both IRIS and Ballet Memphis bring new vitality to classic works, and champion the creation of the new: IRIS by commissioning new American music, and Ballet Memphis by producing more original works than any other company its size. So it is only fitting that this concert marks another first: the first time IRIS has commissioned original choreography.

Dance infuses the entire program, which opens with a ballet masterpiece of the 20th century. In Pulcinella, Stravinsky took an 18th-century commedia dell’arte libretto and music attributed to Pergolesi, clothed it in Picasso’s costumes, and propelled it into the future. Dancers moved to an offbeat score of rhythmic exuberance, jagged harmonic edges, and metrical and harmonic surprise. Stravinsky’s music dances off the page. With Darius Milhaud’s “The Ox on the Roof,” IRIS moves into the world of Brazilian popular music, with its tango rhythms and multi-tonality. Although a staple of the concert stage, Le boeuf sur le toît is rarely presented as a ballet, as Milhaud envisioned it, making this collaboration with Ballet Memphis a rare treat for the ear and the eye. The concert and the season close with Beethoven’s rhythmically vital Symphony No. 7, which no less a musician than Richard Wagner called “the apotheosis of the dance.” As the symphony works itself into a frenzy of elemental energy, this season reaches its ecstatic close.