"A Matisse painting of dancers in a ring was one of my inspirations, but I quickly depart from Matisse's poses. My ballet is not so much a commentary on that specific painting as an attempt to show the interactions of a community. I hope my choreography will be as dreamy and impressionistic as the Debussy music I've selected for it." — Miriam Mahdaviani.
Miriam Mahdaviani was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and moved to New York in 1968, where she joined the School of American Ballet. Ms. Mahdaviani joined New York City Ballet in 1980 and appeared in much of the Company's repertory. She has taught at the Usdan Center for the Performing Arts and began choreographing in 1985 at the Carlilsle Project in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Ms. Mahdaviani has choreographed a number of works for the New York City Ballet, including The Newcomers for the American Music Festival in 1988 and Dance Preludes in 1991. She was awarded the General Electric Foundation's American Choreographer Award in 1989 and Lincoln Center's Martin E. Segal Award in the Spring of 1991.
Claude Debussy (1866-1918) thought of music as an expressive, suggestive medium, and influenced other composers with the non-traditional form, coloring and harmony of his orchestral and piano works. L'Aprés-midi d'un Faune (1892) was an instant success, and his opera Pelléas and Mélisande (1893-95) assured him a top ranking among French composers.
Images (1906-12) is almost painterly in concept, introducing a broadened range of orchestral color. Chords and chord successions are identifying characteristics of Debussy's style, which produced a liberation of French music from what he called "... the legacy of clumsy, falsely interpreted traditions...." Primarily a pianist, he emphasized minute rhythmic details and accents; a fluid line set against a transparent background is a hallmark of his refined style. In Gigues, the last written of the three orchestral works that comprise Images, a tragic mood prevails, with the oboe d'amore featured prominently. The original title for the piece was Gigues Tristes, a "sad" gigue, a contradiction in terms. Melancholic in spirit, it is built on a plaintive melody, possibly derived from plainsong. Nowhere in his orchestral music was Debussy more essentially the painter and impressionist than in Nuages (Clouds) and Fetes from Nocturnes. Economical in form, they meld reflection with scenic depiction. In Nuages, inspired by the composer's memory of a festive crowd in the Bois de Boulonge, Debussy said he tried to evoke "the unchanging aspect of the sky, with the slow and melancholy passing of the clouds dissolving in a gray vagueness tinged with white." The animated Fetes suggests "the restless dancing rhythms of the atmosphere...." At its midway point, Debussy introduces a passage that utilizes muted brass and a harp which, according to the composer, is a "blending of music and luminous dust participating in the cosmic rhythm."