Marcelo Gomes

Music for classical and contemporary ballet

Gomes and Yang in Paganini

In his piece Paganini, American Ballet Theatre principal Marcelo Gomes duels onstage with violinist Charles Yang. The artists challenge each other to keep up with the familiar melody, taking turns upping the speed and virtuosity of their flying finger- and footwork. Gomes says he originally choreographed the piece as a solo for a female. It was at a friend’s suggestion that he tried the movement himself. When Gomes did, he was surprised by how difficult it was. He says that as a choreographer, it’s easy to focus on making movement engaging to look at, and to forget what it feels like for the dancer.

“When you’re actually trying to do the steps, you’re like, ‘Oh this is not very comfortable, but it sure is interesting!’” His experimentation brought out new elements in his choreography, including humor—a butt wiggle here, a questioning facial expression there. “It was a bit more serious at first, and then I thought, ‘What if [Yang] was playing as fast as possible and I have to keep up with him?’” he says. “That made people giggle a little bit, and then we started adding nuances with our faces and it became sort of comical.”

Though he is an established star of the stage, Gomes is relatively new to choreography; most of his work has been made for fellow classical performers. He entered new territory last summer when he created Igual for Complexions Contemporary Ballet, a company whose dancers are known for employing their full range of motion and stunning flexibility at all times. He challenged them to rein it in. “I wanted them to maybe do fewer pirouettes and push their legs down a little and try to engage some deeper muscles, to know the rotation of the leg and be able to stand up on pointe and do a simple promenade,” he says. “That was something that was very challenging for them and that they were so open and eager to learn.”

While rehearsing for ABT, Gomes draws on the dancemaking experience to inspire his own performance. “I’m grateful that I’m still dancing,” he says, “so I can put into practice what I’m learning as a choreographer.” DT

Artist: Niccolò Paganini

Piece: Caprice no. 24 in A minor

“I felt like this music could control someone’s body. That’s how Paganini came about.”

 

 

 

Artist: Etta James

Song: “My Dearest Darling”

“I like big voices, people who can carry huge emotional notes out to the listener. I like to move to it, or at the end of the day, it’s nice to wind down to.”

 

 

Artist: Chopin

Piece: Nocturne in C-sharp minor

“I’m a huge Chopin fan. I like the fact that it’s recognizable music. I like that challenge, to make the audience think about it in a different way.”

 

 

 

Artist: Philip Glass

Album: Glassworks

“I haven’t done anything by Philip Glass and I would love to. A lot of it is continuous music, so you can do so much to it. I want to find the right piece of music and the right way to use it.”

 

 

Artist: Imagine Dragons

Album: Night Visions

“When I created Aftereffect for ABT, I was using Tchaikovsky, but I used Imagine Dragons music to create movement. It was interesting to see what came out. The downbeats and the bass are quite strong and even, so it’s nice to move to.”

 

 

Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy of American Ballet Theatre

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