Orion Ensemble to premiere dance work based on the Tarot

Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 1:35 pm

By Wynne Delacoma

Composer Victoria Bond's "Instruments of Revelation" will be premiered Sunday by the Orion Ensemble.

Card games have fascinated many composers over the years. Prokofiev’s opera The Gambler and Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades come to mind, along with Stravinsky’s ballet Jeu de cartes,written in 1937 for choreographer George Balanchine.

On Feb. 27, March 6 and 9 the Orion Ensemble presents the world premiere of a ballet about Tarot cards, Instruments of Revelation, by composer/conductor Victoria Bond. Daniel Duell, founder of Ballet Chicago, has created a solo for each section of the three-part score that portrays the Tarot deck’s Magician, High Priestess and Fool.

Now in its 18th season, the Orion Ensemble has always had a taste for unusual programming. Even its lineup of instruments—violin (Florentina Ramniceanu), viola (Jennifer Marlas), cello (Judy Stone), clarinet (Kathryne Pirtle) and piano (Diane Schmuck)–is an atypical chamber ensemble mix. But this is the first time the Orion has worked with a choreographer.

The project grew out of Pirtle’s long-standing association with both Bond and Duell. Bond has conducted several operas for Chamber Opera Chicago, including a rare production of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa.

“I met Victoria several years ago working in the orchestra for Chamber Opera Chicago,” said Pirtle. “We really connected professionally and as friends. We just decided that she would write a piece for us. She had been working with the subject of the Tarot cards, so we decided we would try to do this with Dan. I’ve known him for well over 20 years.’’

Based in the Loop, Ballet Chicago currently has a school and a troupe of student dancers, but at one point it was a professional company. Orion members often played in the orchestra for those performances. For Instruments of Revelation, Orion will be onstage along with the solo dancers.

Bond has written ballets for choreographers including Lynne Taylor-Corbett, and she has been interested in Tarot cards for years. At the start of her career, a friend consulted the Tarot deck and told Bond she would work with a very famous conductor and a major symphony orchestra.

“I sort of laughed and said, ‘Sure, sure,’” said Bond, “and then it happened.” The first woman to receive a doctorate in conducting from the Juilliard School, Bond has worked closely with Pierre Boulez, Leonard Slatkin and James Conlon.

Instruments of Revelation is 15 minutes long. Duell and his dancers are savoring the experience of working with live musicians.

“Music is the floor on which dance exists,’’ Duell said. “To have the opportunity of a spontaneous performance, [for dancers and musicians] to be responsive to each other—they know us, we know them–our dancers have taken to it just fabulously.’’

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in the Music Institute of Chicago in Evanston, 7 p.m. March 6 in Fox Valley Presbyterian Church in Geneva and 7:30 p.m. March 9 at Roosevelt University’s Ganz Hall. orionensemble.org

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One Response to “Orion Ensemble to premiere dance work based on the Tarot”

  1. Posted Feb 23, 2011 at 11:37 pm by Laura Brown

    wow. I’ll be following this closely! someone was bound to use tarot as inspiration for music eventually. Such a diverse, intense and broad array of themes right there in the 78 archetypal stages.