Thursday, December 15, 2011

Questions for Ballet Master, Houston Ballet II Claudio Muñoz

(Left photo: Claudio Muñoz)

Claudio Muñoz will be choreographing a new dance for Houston Ballet II to be premiered on Musiqa's Jan 7, 2012 concert Free of the Ground. The music for this new ballet, Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla’s Tango Suite arranged by Kyoko Yamamoto for piano, will be performed live by Tali Morgulis.

The Jan 7 program also includes Karim Al-Zand's Tagore Love Songs, Anthony Brandt's Creeley Songs and Philippe Hurel's Tombeau In Memoriam Gérard Grisey.

Claudio Muñoz graciously took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for the MusiqaBlog about choreography, ballet, and music.

Musiqa: Where do you begin when choreographing a new ballet? Do you start the music and let it inspire the movement?

Claudio Muñoz: In this particular case, the music was a given. Putting it on, I start to play around with ideas, shall I say… poetic ideas, the poetry, not of words, but of what’s beyond words. Only ideas though, not steps. Not yet, anyhow. For that, I would wait until I meet the second important element of my art: the dancer. Music first, the human medium comes second. I come last. My choreography is the soul of the music, expressed through the body of the dancer. A tailor doesn’t make a dress until he sees the lady who’s going to wear it. Neither would I make a choreography until I have seen the actuality, the physicality who’s going to put it on, on stage.

M: Are there certain elements in music that you feel ballet dancers respond to? Or can a good dancer dance to anything?

CM: Dancers are music. Period. There’s not even a question of responding. You are music, or you are no dancer. A good dancer would response to even silence, the inner rhythm, let alone music. So I would have already typically gone with a dancer whose response is spot-on, nail-on, dead-on, since the very first second. Nothing else is good enough.

M: Is ballet in Latin America different than what one sees onstage in Houston or New York? Is it, like much classical music, an art form that simply lands in the same identifiable form no matter where it’s performed? Or does it take new shapes and influences as it is developed and received across different cultures?

CM: There would of course be a slight difference in the feel and the look, chiefly because the ballet there has very strong roots in the Russian school. Here in the States, ballet is eclectic, it is pluralistic, it combines many styles. Of course that’s good. But, south of the equator, things somehow stay more resolutely Russian. It would also look different, just because of the feel of it…a certain approach to the roles, how to interpret them, how to get them across to the audience. That’s basically because Latins live life at a different beat than norteamericanos. There is something in the Latin American air, maybe the cultural background, the ambiance, the nuances, that affect the sensibility of the dancers, a much more earthy, physical, abandoned, free, feeling for movement, for the expression of what’s inside. It has helped Latin American dancers capturing the world stage of late.

And no, on the other hand, Ballet itself, with a capital “B” doesn’t pick up on local colors…Swan Lake is going to be recognizably Swan Lake no matter where it is staged. Of course there were variants from the many classical schools, or there will be legitimate variants from the individual artistic choice of a specific choreographer, but never from the geographical location. Ballet is an attitude, not a latitude. Classical art aims for the universal, not the local. You can add nuances, but not change the color spectrum. Aurora in Sleeping Beauty let’s say is a diamond. She can never become a topaz, an amethyst, an emerald…she can be cut into many shapes, but a diamond she’s got to stay.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Support Musiqa's Educational Programming

Dear Friends,

As someone who believes wholeheartedly in the transformative qualities of music, I support efforts to provide music and music education to those who can most benefit from it. Musiqa and its far-reaching music education programs give Houston students what they are missing, and much more.

Founded in 2002, the non-profit organization Musiqa presents innovative, interdisciplinary concerts showcasing contemporary classical music through arts integrated curriculum at Houston area Title 1 schools. At no cost to schools, Musiqa provides programs that include:

• in-school workshops
• 10-week or year-long school residencies
• teacher study materials
• bus transportation, and
• a downtown Musiqa performance at the Hobby Center

Musiqa’s music education programs are changing the lives of thousands of these students. By bringing music into the classroom and integrating it with subjects including English, Math, and Science, Musiqa is teaching students to think creatively so they have a chance to overcome predicted outcomes of the low socio-economic status they have inherited.

We need your support to bring this nationally award-winning program to the most underserved children of Houston. Help us offer these children a window into a better world, one of music and innovation, creative thinking, and flexibility to reach for higher goals in life. Please make a donation today and share our commitment to help children access arts integrated curriculum and achieve a better tomorrow.

Thank you,

Roger Hochman, President
Musiqa Board of Trustees

"Our students are very low income students. Any experiences that we can provide for them are valuable. Many have never been downtown, in a theatre, or heard live classical music. It enriches their lives, and broadens their horizons to music and careers they never knew existed."

HISD teacher at a Title 1 school commenting on Musiqa's educational programming.

“Creativity is not a specialized gift: Rather, it is an underlying mechanism of our mental lives...We need to train the whole brain. We need communities of richly mediated minds. Our future as a thriving, productive society-and species--depends upon it.”

Musiqa founder Anthony Brandt, describes the need, “Why Young Minds Need Art,” in a Houston Chronicle editorial, September 9, 2011.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Musiqa Artistic Director Anthony Brandt at The Jung Center

This Thursday, December 8, 6pm at The Jung Center of Houston, Musiqa's artistic director composer Anthony Brandt and neuroscientist David Eagleman will talk about their new oratorio "Maternity: Women's Voices Through The Ages."

Brandt and Eagleman will discuss their creative process from both artistic and scientific points of view and will share insights into their working methods.

In "Maternity," the soprano soloist considers her mother, her mother's mother, and so on up the maternal line - well past the point that the matriarchs are considered human.

Click here to register for this presentation. Or call The Jung Center at 713.524.8253.

The world premiere of "Maternity, Women’s Voices through the Ages," sung by soprano Karol Bennett and conducted by Grammy nominated Alistair Willis, will be performed at the ROCO in Concert: Season Finale April 21, 2012 at 5:00 PM at The Church of St. John the Divine, 2450 River Oaks Blvd.