Memoire Imaginaire (1987)

Duration 17’
For full orchestra
Choreography: Michael Pink
First performed at the Palace Theatre, Manchester, by the Northern Ballet Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Brian Fieldhouse.

Memoire Imaginaire was the first ballet score that Feeney composed for Northern Ballet Theatre. It was commissioned by the newly appointed artistic director, Christopher Gable, to help make up a triple bill which was to be headlined by a NBT’s signature ballet, Gillian Lynne’s award-winning A Simple Man. Researching for his new ballet, Michael Pink came across Manet’s painting, The Balcony, and was struck by the resemblance of one of the sitters, Berthe Morisot, to the dancer Mireille Bourgeois. From that seed the scenario for the ballet took root, wherein a young woman at repose has two contrasting dreams about her future relationship. Choice and alternative destinies are a recurrent theme in these early Pink ballets.

Effectively it ends up as two complementary pas de deuxs, designed to be danced by the same couple, emphasising the binary notion of the good within the bad, and the perennial existence of the other side of the coin. The gentle warmth of the opening music develops into the first pas de deux, whose style is melodic and frankly romantic; as the dancer regains her chaise longue we hear the opening music again, but this time it takes a different turn into (plan B so as to speak), an angry and violent duet. Signalled by striking horn scales, the music now turns dissonant and agitated, even aggressive, pushing towards a driving climax, anticipating tormented parts of later ballets, such as Cinderella or even Dracula – the direction in the score ‘headlong’ was to become a familiar Feeney trait, reserved for these wild sudden orchestral outbursts.

Much of the score was written together with the dancers and the choreographer in the dance studio, as many of these early Feeney/Pink pieces were, allowing a real synchrony between the narrative structure and the musical form, one by-product being a natural emotional honesty, since there was no need to pad out unwanted bars with unnecessary material.