Memory Sequence and Feeney’s Storm from I Remember Red (2002)

Created for Cullberg Ballet to a mixed score
Choreographed by Didy Veldman
Designs by Es Devlin
Lighting Designs by Ben Ormerod
First performed at the Stadttheater, Stockholm

Didy Veldman was asked to create a new work for the Cullberg Ballet in early 2002, soon after the premiere of her full length collaboration with composer, Philip Feeney, for Northern Ballet Theatre, A Streetcar named Desire. While planning a score made up of a variety of music and musical styles, she asked Feeney to help pull it together into an integrated and satisfying musical score. Veldman’s predeliction for putting together an eclectic score with a wide selection of music is very much part of her creative personality, and grew to be something of a pattern over the following years.

In I Remember Red, Veldman was exploring memory, especially very early infant memory and to that end the dancers were asked to record into a microphone their very earliest childhood memories, which were superimposed on to a haunting minimalist pianoscape. The piano, as an instrument, can create an extraordinary sense of domestic intimacy, probably deriving from the time when we all grew up with a piano in the house; so here the dancers’ memories (in different languages, since the Cullberg dancers were an international bunch) lie on a bed of piano arpeggios.

Veldman was, and still is, fascinated by dancers using their voice, often live onstage or sung. Indeed in a later collaboration with Philip Feeney, Outsight for Gulbenkian Ballet, she requires her dancers to sing from isolated vantage points within the auditorium itself. At the same time Feeney’s work with Fabulous Beast has involved a lot of blending music with the spoken voice, either by complementing the narrative with a musical underscore, or by integrating it into the overall texture by recording dancers’ voices as genuine musical elements in the score.

In the penultimate section of I Remember Red, the choreographer required music of a driving and forceful character, and Feeney’s Storm is the result. Based on an urgent harpsichord continuum, it has echoes of the composer’s first collaboration with Veldman, Greymatter for Rambert Dance company, based on Michael Ende’s story of Momo, which Veldman was later to revisit in a full length production for Bern Ballet, for which Feeney composed some contributing soundscapes and collages.

photos by Leslie Leslie-Spinks and Es Devlin, courtesy of Cullberg Ballet