I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire (1990)

For piano with pre-recorded track
Choreography: Michael Pink
Design: Sean Wood
Lighting Design: Mark Grabiec
First performed at the Minerva, Chichester as part of the 1990 Ballet Central National tour. Revived in 1995 and later in 2010, remounted by Carole Gable

One of the flagship ballets for Ballet Central, Michael Pink’s witty one act creation is set in a regional hotel in 1930s England, whose shabby serenity is interrupted by two film stars. The work’s starting point is, unsurprisingly, the song that gives the title to the ballet, the Inkspots’ I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire. It provides an evocation of the era, with its scratchy old records, and sound collages made up of natural sounds effects such as festival cricket, a passing Salvation Army Band and a sudden shower that sends the cricketers in for tea. One of the curious features of the track is contribution of choreographer, Michael Pink, on ukulele.

The music is also firmly set in the period exploring and amusingly reinventing the clichés that went along with the musical style of that era. Ultimately the score is a collection of five piano pieces separated by short sound effect sequences; they include an outrageous tango, a foxtrot and a Gershwin-flavoured dream sequence, with the live piano dovetailing beautifully with the track, which at times operates as a backing track, especially in the breakneck finale.

In keeping with the pre-software technology, the track was created on a Fostex 8-track. Consequently all the percussion sounds were played live. This might account for the intentionally slightly ropey quality of them, with composer, choreographer and lighting designer (Feeney, Pink and Grabiec) comprising a highly dodgy and hilarious 3-man rhythm section. It was felt that for its revival of 2010 (to celebrate Ballet Central’s 25th anniversary) the World on Fire backing track was too unique to re-mix and digitally re-master; we would never have been able to re-create its magisterial scruffiness!