Music: György Ligeti (various works for piano, 1947–1985)
Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon
Staging: Ben Huys
Costume Design: Holly Hynes
Lighting Design: Mark Stanley
Duration: 31 minutes
Premiere: January 4, 2001; New York City Ballet
Pacific Northwest Ballet Premiere: March 15, 2007

PNB Company dancers in Polyphonia. Photo © Angela Sterling

The 2007 Pacific Northwest Ballet premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia was generously underwritten by Jeffrey and Susan Brotman.

“Romantic with comic twists” is how Christopher Wheeldon describes his ballet, Polyphonia (meaning “many voices”), set to ten eclectic piano pieces by György Ligeti. Overhead horizontal lifts, rolls and pushes off the floor contrast with classical ballet steps. The first of two key duets for the leading principal couple evokes sea creatures swimming, while the second looks like a strange plant growing and closing in on itself. The last horizontal lifts and fade-out arrest the movement, frame it, and let it dissolve like a film. Polyphonia won England’s Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production in 2003 and was the first ballet by Christopher Wheeldon to be taken into Pacific Northwest Ballet’s repertory.

Recommended Listening:
Ligeti (Edition 3): Études pour piano; Musica Ricercata, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Sony 62308
Ligeti (Edition 6): Keyboard Works (Piano, Harpsichord, Organ), Irina Kataeva, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Elisabeth Chojnacka/Zsigmond Szathmáry, Sony 62307

Recommended Reading:
György Ligeti: Music of the Imagination, by Richard Steinitz (Northeastern University Press, 2003)
György Ligeti, by Richard Toop (Phaidon Press, 1999)

Notes compiled by Doug Fullington.

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