In the Mi(d)st

Choreography by: Miriam Mahdaviani

Music by: Oliver Knussen and Aaron Jay Kernis

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Credits

Music
The Way to Castle Yonder and excerpts from Music for a Puppet Court by Oliver Knussen, and Overture in Feet and Meters by Aaron Jay Kernis
Premiere
June 21, 2002, The Diamond Project V, New York City Ballet, New York State Theater
Original Cast
Jennie Somogyi, Alexandra Ansanelli, James Fayette, S├ębastien Marcovici

In the Mi(d)st is a ballet whose mood varies from foreboding to playful and exultant. Two principal couples and four supporting couples begin dancing in pairs on a dim stage; behind them, rays of light filter in from the left corner of the stage. Dressed in soft shades of blue and purple, the dancers, hand in hand, pull away from their partners, and the men lift the women in a mix of horizontal and vertical positions. At the ballet’s end, men turn women in various positions and suddenly stop, midturn, as though frozen in time and space.
 
Ms. Mahdaviani created this ballet, her fifth for the Company, for the Diamond Project’s 10th anniversary season. She said that although she had used what some might think of as “happy” music for previous ballets, she was not in the frame of mind to use such music for this ballet, given the events of 2001. In choosing music, she said that she was looking for music “that seemed bright on the surface but with a complexity and grittiness underneath.” She also wanted to work with contemporary composers.
 
Oliver Knussen, an internationally renowned conductor-composer, was born in Glasgow in l952. He has lived most of his life near London, where his father was principal doublebass of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). At 15, he made his conducting debut with the LSO with his First Symphony (1966-67), substituting at short notice for the scheduled conductor. Knussen studied composition in the early 1970s with John Lambert in Britain, and later in the United States at Tanglewood and in Boston with Gunther Schuller. During this period he composed a series of chamber works, which have been incorporated into the repertory of ensembles all over the world. In the 1980s Knussen collaborated with author-illustrator Maurice Sendak on the one-act operas Where the Wild Things Are (l979-83) and Higglety Pigglety Pop! (1984-90). In 1990-92 he held the Elise L. Stoeger Composer's Chair with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. In 1994 he became a Commander of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honors and was also made an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Knussen is music director of the London Sinfonietta and has appeared worldwide as a guest conductor.
 
Aaron Jay Kernis, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning composer, was born in Philadelphia in 1960. He began his musical studies on the violin, and at age 12 began teaching himself piano. The following year he began teaching himself composition. Kernis continued his studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Yale School of Music, studying with John Adams, Charles Wuorinen, and Jacob Druckman. His first orchestral work, Dream of the Morning Sky, received national acclaim when it was premiered by the New York Philharmonic at the 1983 Horizons Festival. In addition to the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for his String Quartet No. 2 (musica instrumentalis), he has been honored with several other prestigious awards, including the 2002 Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition for the cello and orchestra version of Colored Field and the Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. As new music advisor for the Minnesota Orchestra in Minneapolis, Kernis composes for the Orchestra and advises the commissioning and support of other contemporary music for the Orchestra.