The Family Picture (1987)
For piano and pre-recorded track
Choreography: Michael Pink
Lighting Design: Mark Grabiec
First performed at the Queen’s Hall, Hexham as part of the 1987 Ballet Central National tour.
The Family Picture was the first of a long line of collaborations between Philip Feeney and Michael Pink, who, as the co-founder and dynamic factotum of Ballet Central, choreographed many works for the graduate company both as assistant artistic director and as an external independent choreographer. It is an ambitious neo-classical narrative piece, inspired by sepia family portraits, one of which is recreated in the opening tableau. During the piece the ostensibly close family unit is dismantled and destroyed, leaving just the mother, danced by Cressida Merritt-Webb, sitting alone in the group.
It was the first score to employ the technique of combining live piano with pre-recorded track, due to become so much a feature of Ballet Central tours. The opening theme is a period cello and piano theme, which returns after each section as the picture is recreated with fewer family members. Each section is a separate piano solo piece, with a certain amount of elementary synchronisation with the tape, often requiring very specific sound cues for the track entry points. The final minimalist section, heavy with silence, signalled the death of the father.
Once the characters were out of story they sat in chairs facing upstage on stage left. In one memorable performance in the Great Hall at Hoghton Towers, a wonderful log fire added to the emotional nostalgic atmosphere of the piece – it also managed to badly singe the costumes of the dancers sitting there!
photos courtesy of Ballet Central