May 1, 2018
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY: Seventy-five years ago, T.S. Eliot published Four Quartets, a poetic meditation on time and memory that is widely regarded as his crowning achievement. Now, to celebrate this milestone anniversary, Bard SummerScape 2018 presents the world premiere of Four Quartets, the first authorized dance performance ever to be based on Eliot’s modernist masterpiece. A SummerScape commission, the new work is an interdisciplinary collaboration that draws on the talents of three of today’s most potent artistic voices. Since making her acclaimed festival debut at SummerScape 2015, Pam Tanowitz has been recognized as “one of the most formally brilliant choreographers around” (New York Times), with honors including a Bessie Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the prestigious 2017 Cage Cunningham Fellowship. For Four Quartets’ music, she turned to the work of Grawemeyer and Grammy Award-winning Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, whose rich, polyphonic textures have “given her audiences – and given late 20th- and early 21st-century music as a whole – some of the most luminous, beguiling and sheerly sensual experiences they can hope to have” (The Guardian). The creative trio is completed by American modernist painter and Hudson Valley resident Brice Marden, “one of today’s leading artists” (New York Times), who was the subject of a major retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The performance features nine members of the Pam Tanowitz Dance company, with a complete narration of Eliot’s poem cycle by Tony-nominated actress Kathleen Chalfant (Angels in America, Wit). Saariaho’s music will be performed live by four members of The Knights, the celebrated orchestral collective that has “become one of Brooklyn’s sterling cultural products” (New Yorker). This world premiere will be performed three times from July 6–8 in the Sosnoff Theater in the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center on Bard College’s glorious Hudson River campus. Four Quartets is co-commissioned with the Barbican Centre in London and the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, and the work will be performed in London and Los Angeles in 2019.
Pam Tanowitz explains:
“Living inside Eliot’s poetry has been a process of training myself how to look at the world. I am experimenting with how to pair dance within his rhythm of words while activating the audience’s imagination to create meaningful images and connections.”
Kaija Saariaho says:
“I have loved Eliot since my youth, and think of his words often in relation to my music. It’s a pleasure to partner with Pam and Brice to create a new way of encountering these rich and significant poems.”
Brice Marden adds:
“It’s a pleasure to reconnect with Four Quartets. The poems are elemental, preoccupied with the turning world, the seasons and elements, and the ineffable, highest qualities of our lives.”
Since founding her own company in 2000, Pam Tanowitz has become known for her post-modern treatment of classical dance vocabulary. The seeds of Bard’s new commission were sown three years ago, when the choreographer first brought her company to SummerScape with a triple bill that scored a five-star review in the Financial Times. It was then that she and Gideon Lester, Bard’s Artistic Director for Theater and Dance, discovered their shared fascination with the poetry of T.S. Eliot (1888–1965), and with the ways he wrote about dance. Eliot was obsessed with dance, especially ballet, and Four Quartets (1943) – his last great work of poetry, completed while he worked as an air raid warden in London during the Blitz – is suffused with dance-related imagery. In an insightful blog chronicling the project’s development, Lester writes:
“The idea to create a dance based on Four Quartets came from the poems themselves. … Eliot admired dance for its abstraction, and for the tensions it can create between stillness and movement, the ephemeral and the eternal, past and present. … In Burnt Norton, the first of the Quartets, he created a startling vision of a dance ‘at the still point of the turning world.’ … In East Coker, the second Quartet, Eliot takes us to the village in Somerset where his ancestors lived. He portrays their ghosts dancing in a field outside the village, enacting ancient cycles of life and death, the turning planets, and changing seasons. … In Little Gidding, the final poem, choreography becomes a metaphor to describe the process of writing.”
This passage spoke most powerfully to Tanowitz. As Lester recounts:
“When she reread this section of Little Gidding, Pam was startled by how closely Eliot reflected the choreographer’s process. ‘This is my task,’ she told me: ‘To make a dance where every phrase is at home, taking its place to support the others, an easy commerce of the old and the new, exact without vulgarity, precise but not pedantic.’”
Tanowitz is not the first choreographer to draw inspiration from Four Quartets, but although others, notably Martha Graham, have also done so, none have previously been granted permission to set a dance performance to the cycle. When approached about Bard’s new commission, however, the estate of T. S. Eliot not only authorized it, but provided funding for Tanowitz and Lester to make a pilgrimage to each of the poem’s four primary sites. Lester explains:
“Eliot’s poems are complex and beautiful meditations on time and timelessness, and on the limits of human comprehension of the divine. [He] wrote them in part as a response to spiritual epiphanies he experienced in four particular places.”
Three of these places are in England, the poet’s adopted homeland, and one in his native America. Burnt Norton (1935) shares its name with a manor house and gardens Eliot visited in Gloucestershire; East Coker (1940) with the Somerset village to which his family traces its roots, where he is himself now buried; The Dry Salvages (1941) with a cluster of rocks off the coast of Massachusetts, around which he sailed as a boy; and Little Gidding (1942) with a Cambridgeshire village whose storied chapel made a profound impression on him. About his pilgrimage with Tanowitz, Lester says:
“It was an incredible privilege to walk in Eliot’s footsteps in these four extraordinary places, and to sense in them ‘the intersection of the timeless with time’ that he writes about. Their ancient landscapes, and the ghosts of those who went before, inspired Eliot to create poetry with a concentration and grace that is a balm in our own chaotic times.”
Another artist who has long been inspired by Eliot’s poetry is Polar Music Prize-winner Kaija Saariaho, whose opera L’Amour de loin won both Grawemeyer and Grammy Awards, and went on to become just the second work by a female composer to be mounted at the Metropolitan Opera. She first set lines from Four Quartets to music back in the early 1980s, but without authorization from the Eliot estate, this early composition was never performed. Rather than returning to it, for Bard’s new commission Saariaho created an original score from some of her existing chamber works, now in new arrangements for violin, viola, cello, harp, and electronics.
Hudson Valley’s Brice Marden is “an artist who has spent his career assiduously converting the rule-ridden zone of Minimalist abstraction into a capacious yet disciplined place” (New York Times). When the team approached him about artwork for Four Quartets, he too responded positively, noting: “Eliot is my god.” Although the artist once designed sets for a 2003 production at Naples’ San Carlo Opera, Bard’s premiere production of Four Quartets represents the first time Marden’s work for the stage will have been seen here in the States.
All three collaborators share Eliot’s gift for abstraction. Furthermore, like the poet, all three artists combine their conceptual approach with a profound feel for the personal. As Lester puts it:
“[The] paradoxical conversation between the depersonalized and the personal is a defining feature of Pam’s choreography. It is why, I think, she is such a good match for Eliot – along with her other collaborators on the project, Kaija Saariaho, and Brice Marden, who are both abstract artists with a deep sense of humanity.”
Bard’s world premiere performances of Four Quartets feature a complete, live reading of the four Eliot poems by veteran actress Kathleen Chalfant, whose accolades include Outer Circle Critics, Drama Desk, and Obie awards; a Tony nomination; and a Lucille Lortel lifetime achievement award. Her casting marks a break with tradition, for Eliot’s cycle has come to be associated with the voices of the British men who have recorded it, from Alec Guinness and Jeremy Irons to the poet himself. Putting his words instead into the mouth of an American woman offers audiences the chance to hear them in a fresh light. Moreover, by showcasing the work not only of Chalfant, but of Tanowitz and Saariaho too, Bard’s production allows Eliot’s text to interact with their strong female presence.
Chalfant will be joined on stage by nine dancers – Kara Chan, Jason Collins, Dylan Crossman, Christine Flores, Zachary Gonder, Lindsey Jones, Victor Lozano, Maile Okamura, and Melissa Toogood – all of whom are members of Pam Tanowitz Dance. Since its founding as a platform for the choreographer to explore her vision with a consistent group, the company has received commissions from, and undertaken residencies at, such prestigious venues as the Joyce Theater, New York Live Arts, Guggenheim Museum’s Works & Process series, Dance Theater Workshop, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Chicago Dancing Festival, Baryshnikov Arts Center, and the Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival. Pam Tanowitz Dance was named among the New York Times’ “Best of Dance” in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Click here to see selected excerpts from the company’s work.
Saariaho’s music will be interpreted by four members of The Knights: co-artistic director Colin Jacobsen on violin, Nicholas Cords on viola, Hannah Collins on cello, and Bridget Kibbey on harp. Hailed as a “consistently inventive, infectiously engaged indie ensemble” (New York Times), The Knights previously performed with Pam Tanowitz Dance two years ago in the company’s celebrated premiere of Sequenzas in Quadrilles at New York’s Joyce Theater. The electronic components of Four Quartets’ score will be supervised by Jean-Baptiste Barrière, the award-winning Parisian composer and mixed-media artist whose numerous collaborations with Saariaho span decades, dating from their time together at France’s IRCAM, where he directed research, education, and production. Marden’s original artwork will be complemented by the scenic and lighting design of Lucille Lortel Award nominee Clifton Taylor, with costumes designed by Pam Tanowitz Dance members Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, whose work for the company has been called “exquisite” (New York Times).
* * * * *
Bard SummerScape has long produced and premiered significant dance productions, including commissions from such seminal choreographers as Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, John Heginbotham, Bill T. Jones, and Mark Morris. As the New York Sun observes, the festival offers “one of the best lineups of the summer for fans of any arts discipline.”
To download high-resolution photos of Four Quartets, click here.
Gagosian is the lead corporate sponsor of Four Quartets. Major support is provided by Rebecca Gold.
Four Quartets is co-commissioned by the Fisher Center, the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, and the Barbican, London. Additional commissioning funds were provided by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, the O’Donnell-Green Music and Dance Foundation, the T.S. Eliot Foundation, King’s Fountain, and Cultural Services of the French Embassy. Creation and performance of the music is supported by the Thendara Foundation.
Dance at Bard SummerScape 2018
World premiere of SummerScape commission
Text by T. S. Eliot
Choreography by Pam Tanowitz
Music by Kaija Saariaho
Images by Brice Marden
with Kathleen Chalfant
Scenic and lighting design: Clifton Taylor
Costume design: Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung
Sound design: Jean-Baptiste Barriére
From Pam Tanowitz Dance:
Kara Chan, Jason Collins, Dylan Crossman, Christine Flores, Zachary Gonder, Lindsey Jones, Victor Lozano, Maile Okamura, and Melissa Toogood, dancers
From The Knights:
Colin Jacobsen, violin; Nicholas Cords, viola; Hannah Collins, cello; and Bridget Kibbey, harp
Friday, July 6 at 8pm* (with opening-night reception for members)
Saturday, July 7 at 8pm (with post-performance conversation)
Sunday, July 8 at 3 pm* (with pre-performance conversation at 2pm)
Tickets start at $25
* Round-trip bus service from Manhattan is provided exclusively to ticket-holders for the opening-night performance on Friday, July 6. A reservation is required, and may be made by calling the box office at 845-758-7900 or by selecting this option when purchasing tickets. The round-trip fare is $40, and the coach departs from behind Lincoln Center, on Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets. Find additional details at: fishercenter.bard.edu/visit/transportation.
SummerScape 2018: other key performance dates by genre
Bard Music Festival, Weekend One: Inventing Russian Music: The Mighty Five (Aug 10–12)
Bard Music Festival, Weekend Two: Rimsky-Korsakov and His Followers (Aug 17–19)
Anton Rubinstein: Demon
July 27* at 8pm
July 29*; August 1, 3* & 5* at 2 pm
Tickets start at $25
Opening Night Reception for Members Friday, July 27
Opera Talk with Leon Botstein Sunday, July 29 at noon
Leonard Bernstein’s Peter Pan (new production)
June 28; July 5, 6*, 8, 12, 15, 19 & 22 at 7 pm
June 29 & 30; July 7, 13, 14, 20 & 21 at 7:30 pm
July 1, 4, 7, 8*, 11, 14, 15, 18, 21 & 22 at 2 pm
Tickets start at $25
Open to reviewing press beginning July 5
Suitable for audiences aged 12 and up.
Opening Night Reception for Members Friday, July 6
Pre-Performance Conversation Sunday, July 1 at 1pm
Post-Performance Conversation Wednesday, July 11
“Rimsky-Korsakov and the Poetry of Cinema”
Ottaway Film Center
July 26 – Russian Ark (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2002, Russia/Germany/Canada/Finland, 96 minutes)
July 29 – A Night on Bald Mountain (Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker, 1933, France, 8 minutes) and Fantasia (Walt Disney, 1940, USA, 126 minutes)
August 2 – The Devil is a Woman (Josef von Sternberg, 1935, USA, 79 minutes)
August 5 – Kismet (Vincente Minnelli, 1955, USA, 113 minutes)
August 9 – Man of Music (Composer Glinka), (Grigori Aleksandrov, 1952, USSR, 100 minutes)
August 12 – The Cranes are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1957, USSR, 97 minutes)
August 16 – Atlantic City (Louis Malle, 1980, Canada/France, 104 minutes)
August 19 – The House of Mirth (Terence Davies, 2000, UK/Germany/USA, 140 minutes)
Live Music, Cabaret, Festival Dining, and After Hours salon
Hosted by Mx. Justin Vivian Bond
June 29-August 18
Dates, times, and prices vary
Bard SummerScape ticket information
Tickets for all Bard SummerScape events are now on sale. For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or visit fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape.
SummerScape opera, theater, and dance performances and most Bard Music Festival programs are held in the Sosnoff Theater or LUMA Theater in Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry and celebrated since its opening as a major architectural landmark in the region. Some chamber programs and other BMF events are in Olin Hall, and the Spiegeltent has its own schedule of events, in addition to serving as a restaurant, café, and bar before and after performances. Film Series screenings are at the Jim Ottaway Jr. Film Center in the Milton and Sally Avery Arts Center.
New York City Round-Trip Coach Transportation:
To make a reservation on the round-trip SummerScape coach provided exclusively to ticket holders for specific performances indicated by * in the listings above, call the box office at 845-758-7900 or select this option when purchasing tickets. The round-trip fare is $40 and reservations are required. The coach departs from behind Lincoln Center, on Amsterdam Avenue between 64th and 65th Streets. Find additional details at: fishercenter.bard.edu/visit/transportation.
For a complete schedule of SummerScape and Bard Music Festival events (subject to change), follow the links given below. Updates are posted at the festival web site fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape.
Fisher Center members receive priority access to the best seats in advance, and those who join the Center’s email list receive advance booking opportunities as well as regular news and updates.
Bard SummerScape: fishercenter.bard.edu/summerscape
Bard Music Festival: fishercenter.bard.edu/bmf
Tickets and Subscriptions: fishercenter.bard.edu/boxoffice; or by phone at 845-758-7900. Tickets to all mainstage events start at $25.
Create Your Own Series: save 25% and enjoy maximum flexibility, by choosing four or more events.
SummerScape Mainstage Package: save 30% and guarantee seats for dance, theater, and opera events.
Out-of-Town Package: save up to 23% on mainstage ticket, roundtrip bus from New York City, and three-course meal.
Night Out Package: save up to 15% on mainstage ticket (selected performances only) and three-course meal.
All programs are subject to change.
The 2018 SummerScape season is made possible in part through the generous support of Jeanne Donovan Fisher, the Martin and Toni Sosnoff Foundation, the Board of The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, the Board of the Bard Music Festival, and Fisher Center members, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
# # #
© 21C Media Group, May 2018