Harriman-Jewell Series Brings Beatles-Inspired Pepperland and Much More to Kansas City
Pirouettes and flying leaps have been an important part of the Harriman-Jewell Series from the very beginning. In fact, the first performance on the Harriman-Jewell Series in 1965 was by New York City Ballet’s Patricia McBride and Edward Villella. For the 2019-2020 season, the Harriman-Jewell Series continues its great dance tradition by presenting two of the very finest contemporary dance companies: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and the Mark Morris Dance Group. Both companies will perform with live music.
“We’re very excited about that,” said Clark Morris, executive and artistic director of the Harriman-Jewell Series. “Having live music is not always something that’s easy to do for a presenter, when we’re bringing in companies from the outside. But we’re very fortunate that both of these companies have live music as part of their programs.”
Bebe Schweppe founded Aspen Ballet in 1996, and the group soon experienced remarkable growth along with critical accolades for the company’s combination of American athleticism and cutting-edge European choreography. In 2000, Aspen Ballet forged a dual-city partnership with Santa Fe, New Mexico, resulting in Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.
“We’ve presented Aspen Santa Fe Ballet two times before,” Morris said. “It’s a gorgeous company that is a joy to watch. We have a number of donors who spend some time in Aspen, particularly in the summer, and have become fans of the company.”
One of the works Aspen Santa Fe Ballet will perform is Where We Left Off, with choreography by Nicolo Fonte. The piece will feature pianist Han Chen on stage performing the music of Philip Glass as the dancers perform Fonte’s graceful choreography around him. It’s a standout example of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s commitment to performing the finest works by contemporary choreographers.
Another terrific American company, Mark Morris Dance Group, was founded in 1980 to perform works by its artistic director, Mark Morris. Through its technical virtuosity, live music and community involvement, Mark Morris Dance Group has become one of the most vital dance companies in America. Yo-Yo Ma has called Mark Morris Dance Group “the preeminent modern dance organization of our time.”
“I’m a big fan of Mark Morris as a choreographer,” Clark Morris said. “I think he’s brilliant, really a genius. He thinks of himself as a musician, not just as a choreographer. He approaches choreography from the score. His ability to bring music to life is unparalleled.”
Mark Morris is bringing his vibrantly colorful Pepperland to Kansas City. It was commissioned by the city of Liverpool to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Pepperland has been getting rave reviews. The L.A. Times calls it “irresistible” and The Times (London) praised Morris for creating “a bigger canvas of affecting sentiment, from smoochy romance to hippy spiritualism.”
“It’s an evening-length work,” Clark Morris said. “Mark Morris actually had a new score commissioned that is influenced by the Beatles’ album, capturing the spirit of songs such as With a Little Help from My Friends, A Day in a Life, When I’m Sixty-four, Within You Without You and Penny Lane.”
Mark Morris’ live music ensemble will include voice, soprano saxophone, trombone, piano, organ, harpsichord, percussion and the eerie electronic instrument called a theremin.
“I don’t think we’ve ever presented a dance performance that included a live performance on a theremin; that’s also a Series debut,” Clark Morris quipped.
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet on Oct. 25, 2019, and Mark Morris Dance Group on Feb. 8, 2020, are at the Muriel Kauffman Theatre, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets and more information, call 816-415-5025 or visit www.hjseries.org.