'2001': Space dance and a ballet hoedown at JDHS

Posted: Thursday, January 04, 2001

The power of knowledge in a mysterious black monolith inspired early humans to reach for the stars in "2001: A Space Odyssey."

The film and music inspired Juneau ballet instructor and choreographer Patti Mattison to create a series of interpretive dances. Students from her Auke Bay dance school, L'Ecole de Ballet, will perform her ballet, "2001: A Space Odyssey," this weekend at Juneau-Douglas High School.

"The story of '2001' is the story of mankind into the future," Mattison said. "We've patterned our ballet after that."

The ballet uses the same music as the film soundtrack. Released in 1968, the British film by writer Arthur C. Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick was a critical and commercial success. The film put classical composer Richard Strauss in the Top 40 with "Also Sprach Zarathustra."

Mattison uses the same music, along with Johann Strauss's "Blue Danube" waltz and Aram Khatchaturian's "Gayane Ballet Suite," which are also part of the film score.

The dances loosely follow the first half of the story. In the first act, dancers portray early humans encountering a strange monolith, which Mattison said represents knowledge.

"It's an interpretive ballet," Mattison said. "Classical in some sense, but interpreting the emotions of the primitive people."

The music for that dance is "Requiem for Choral Voices," and lead dancer Marissa Capito, 15, said it's a tough one to dance to.

"There's no beat," Capito said. "I listen for changes in the vocals for dance cues."

The ballet departs from the film during the second half. Rather than trace the film's story of the journey to Jupiter, Mattison has her dancers visit three different planets. In "Lux Aeterna," the dancers visit a water planet.

"We're going to dance like we're moving through water," Capito said.

"2001" will last about an hour, Mattison said.

The second portion of the program is completely different, a presentation of "Appalachian Spring." Choreographer Martha Graham commissioned the score for the ballet from composer Aaron Copeland in 1943. Mattison is using the Copeland score and loosely drawing on Graham's story.

"It's set in a village in Appalachia in the 1920s," Mattison said. "It's about a girl who is forced by her family to marry against her will."

"It's a tragedy," said Capito.

Eight dancers will perform in "2001" and about 30 dancers will participate in "Appalachian Spring."

"We have a hoedown in it, and that's probably the funnest scene," said Alice Miller, 11. Robin Barnes, 18, will be the lead dancer in "Appalachian Spring."

Mattison opened her dance program in 1994 and now has about 50 students. L'Ecole de Ballet is based at the Auke Bay American Legion Hall.

Performances will be at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the JuneauDouglas High School auditorium. Admission is $10, $6.50 for children ages 5 to 12, and for seniors. Kids under 5 are free.

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