As she approached creating her third work for the New York City Ballet repertory, Melissa Barak wanted to choreograph a ballet rooted firmly in the Company’s neo-classical tradition that also had a romantic and playful flavor not usually seen in contemporary works. She put the elements together artfully. For her music, Barak selected Benjamin Britten’s A Simple Symphony, a 1934 work for a string orchestra that uses themes the composer developed earlier in his life. In Britten’s music Barak found a path to explore the classical ballet vocabulary in the lively and romantic way she envisioned. The music is bright and accessible; its four movements provide an excellent structure on which to build a ballet. Two lively movements are followed by a lyrical, romantic adagio, ending with a final spirited movement.
Barak designed the women’s costumes in a pastel, romantic style tutu. The men are also dressed in a style that evokes a romantic era. Finally, Barak assembled a traditional grouping of dancers: a principal couple, two soloist couples and six corps women.
The corps' complex, lyrical patterns of movement play a central role throughout the ballet. The third movement pas de deux for the principal couple with its sweeping lifts and gentle lyricism is the emotional core of ballet. Barak had Balanchine’s La Source and Raymonda Variations in mind as she developed A Simple Symphony. In this ballet she accomplishes two goals: paying homage to earlier, beautiful plotless ballets, while developing her personal vision of the classical vocabulary.