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Worth the “Diversion”

Showup.com, Posted by Ken LaFave

Five hours and counting until the final performance by Ballet Arizona of its Classic Innovations program at the Orpheum Theatre. The program includes company director Ib Andersen’s newest ballet, Diversions, set to the score of the same name by Benjamin Britten.

Post-Balanchine, it has become a choreographer’s duty to uncover music never used before in dance, and to unfold through it his or her relationship to that music. Andersen accomplishes this in stellar fashion in Diversions, an eye-filling essay on masculine and feminine movement types. Among other things, Andersen has taken care to use his airborne males to maximum effect. I’d wager (hyperbole alert here) there are more jumps in this ballet than in any three others.

Britten composed the music during his American sojourn in the early ’40s. (He’d come from England as a pacifist to avoid involvement in World War II, only to find the USA engaged after Pearl Harbor.) Written for Paul Wittgenstein, who’d lost his right arm in World War I, the piece for piano, left hand, and orchestra amounted to a wordless protest of sorts against the imbecility of war. There’s no such subtext in Andersen’s ballet, which exults in the sheer energy and inventive complexity of the music.

Ballet Arizona will make its Kennedy Center debut in June with Diversions.