Sweet! ‘Scheherazade’ ballet dramatic eye candy


Dancers with the Eugene Ballet will perform Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” at Whitman College’s Cordiner Hall Saturday with the Walla Walla Symphony.

Dancers with the Eugene Ballet will perform Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” at Whitman College’s Cordiner Hall Saturday with the Walla Walla Symphony. Photos courtesy of Eugene Ballet

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WALLA WALLA — What is considered by many to be the most well-known work by composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov will be performed by musicians and dancers Saturday at Cordiner Hall, when the Eugene Ballet Company joins the Walla Walla Symphony for “Scheherazade.”

“It has a lot of sets and costume pieces and it is real eye candy as well as being very dramatic,” ballet artistic director Toni Pimble said as to why the classic is performed by the Oregon company about every decade.

If you go

What: “Scheherazade,” “Bolero” and “String Quartet No. 12,” performed by Walla Walla Symphony and Eugene Ballet Company

“Petite Suite No. 1,” performed by Walla Walla Symphony and The Dance Center of Walla Walla

When: Saturday, two performances, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Where: Whitman College’s Cordiner Hall, 46 S. Park St.

Tickets: Online, wwsymphony.org; phone, 529-8020; symphony office, 13½ E. Main St., Suite 201, 9-5 p.m.; or at the door.

Cost: Adults $35, $28, $20; 18 and younger and accompanied by an adult, $5 all seats.

Program note: Despite the adult nature of the original story of “Scheherazade,” symphony officials said it and all the ballet works for the evening are appropriate for all age levels. The only limiting factor for children would be length, as the matinee and evening performances are each expected to run a total of just over two hours.

The music score for Rimsky-Korsakov’s work is a symphonic poem based on “One Thousand and One Nights,” also known as the “Arabian Nights.”

The ballet tells the story of a recently indoctrinated harem woman, Scheherazade, who comes up with a plan to save her sister, herself and countless other future harem women who are fated to be beheaded by the vengeful king of Persia.

The king’s practice would be to sleep with a harem woman and then have her executed to ensure her fidelity. In the classic tale, Scheherazade’s uses her wit and skill as a storyteller to regale the brutal king with a new story every night. Eventually the king falls in love with her and ends the brutal beheadings.

“Scheherazade herself is a very strong character in the story, and she is a very smart woman,” Pimble said, noting that the work’s famous violin solos are the heroine. “Each of those beautiful cadenzas, that is the voice of Scheherazade.”

Ironically, when Rimsky-Korsakov’s work was adapted and performed to a ballet in 1910, two years after his death, historians say it was not well accepted by the composer’s family. However, the ballet was a success for the general public and has been for more than a century.

On Saturday, the Eugene Ballet will also perform another best-known work of a French composer.

Unlike “Scheherazade,” Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” was written to be performed with a ballet.

Ravel’s single movement of unconventional variations on a theme — unconventional in that is has no variation other than adding instruments and volume as the music progresses to a concluding crescendo — was also a success from its debut.

When the Eugene Ballet performs it on Saturday, it will be a completely new choreography by Pimble, who said she was challenged by the receptiveness of the work.

“It goes from being very stark and simple to being very full and lush. It was a very challenging piece to choreograph because he repeats the theme,” Pimble said. “I really needed to lay it out first. And I needed to choreograph how I was going to fill the 18 repeats. And believe me there are 18 repeats.”

The Eugene Ballet will also perform a more contemporary dance to Antonin Dvorak’s “String Quartet No. 12,” also know as the “American String Quartet.”

“It has that boozy, love-lost quality to it, which is interesting because Dvorak wrote that quartet when he was living in America,” Pimble said.

Also on the bill, Idalee Hutson-Fish of The Dance Center of Walla Walla will feature nine of her dancers, who will perform to a choreography she created for Igor Stravinsky’s “Petite Suite No. 1.”

“It is a rather obscure little piece,” Hutson said. “But there is a lot going on in it.”

Stravinsky’s work traditionally consists of four movements. But the choreographer said she needed to take artistic liberty and repeat the first movement at the end.

“Stravinsky would have thought the pice was complete, but as a choreographer I just needed to put a cap on it to complete the piece,” Hutson-Fish said.

The Dance Center’s performance will be one of the last opportunities this year to showcase graduating senior Summer Wardlaw, who this fall will begin studying at the Ballet West Academy in Salt Lake City.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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