6 Chamber Dances (2007)

Duration: 10’
For piano, clarinet, violin, cello and percussion
Choreography: David Fielding
First performed at the Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford as part of the 2007 Ballet Central National tour and subsequently revived in 2012
Performed by Jo Woods (violin) and Patrick Jones (cello).

6 Chamber Dances was choreographer David Fielding’s second work for Ballet Central. In 2004, he had created a work to Stravinsky’s Piano Sonata, played on tour by Philip Feeney, and for the new work, Feeney was delighted to compose a new score. Fielding was excited about the collaboration and, although his brief was for a ten minute work, he wanted to take the bold option of creating a piece that was a collection of a number of short contrasting individual dances, in the manner of, say, a set of variations.

It is a work for four dancers, two girls and two boys; each dance wryly charts their interpersonal relationships, basically providing a witty commentary upon sexual competition. Indeed when searching for a title, Fielding was drawn towards the expression ‘chamber’, not merely as a description of the music, but because it had resonances that could be perceived as a little risqué!

For the composer, it was fascinating that 6 Chamber Dances was revived in 2012 alongside another revival, that of Christopher Gable’s ballet, Celebration. When embarking on the score for 6 Chamber Dances, Feeney used the earlier work as something of a template, providing him with a blueprint for an umbrella structure built up from lots of short contrasting sections, but held together by a rigorous thematic integration, so that all the music is ultimately derived from the opening phrases.

The piano is played live, but the overall texture of the music is that of an ensemble piece. Perhaps more than in any other work Feeney has created in this format, the piano is here designed to sit comfortably with all the other parts, with the feeling that they are definitely in the same room!

The clarinet and guitar give the sonority of the music a brittleness that is exciting. The renowned choreographer, Christopher Bruce, commented that it made the piece sound stylistically very French. The unusual scoring also helps each section contrast decidedly with the previous one. 

Just as in Celebration, the haunting pas de deux, although just one individual section, is three times as long as the other movements, and consequently provides us with the emotional heart of the piece.

David tragically died in 2008, a devastating loss to all who knew him, and to the ballet world in general. The revival of 6 Chamber Dances in 2012 was dedicated to his memory.