Thursday, February 5, 2009

Festival Ballet Providence performs Eldar Aliev’s A Thousand and One Nights

Rhode Island performance of the contemporary ballet which features the three most popular tales of the Nights: Sinbad, Aladdin, and Ali Baba, as well as the frame story.

Info on the choreographer and a video from him follows the review pasted below:

‘A Thousand and One leaps’ by Festival Ballet Providence

01:00 AM EST on Thursday, February 5, 2009

By Bryan Rourke

Journal Staff Writer

Perhaps a flying carpet will sweep you away. Or maybe dance will do the same.

Both are expected this weekend at Veterans Memorial Auditorium.

“I’m a choreographer, not a technician,” says Eldar Aliev. “I told my technician people that I need a flying carpet, and a flying carpet was there.”

Festival Ballet Providence presents Aliev’s A Thousand and One Nights: The Adventures of Aladdin, Sinbad & Ali Baba. The two-act ballet is regarded as inspirational and fantastical. Last year, Dance Magazine called the work “fiery and brash and raw. It’s passionate and slapstickish. Sometimes it’s even kitschy.”

Aliev, a guest choreographer from Russia who danced 13 years with the Kirov Ballet, doesn’t know the words slapstickish and kitschy. But he does know humor when he hears it. And he hears it in the score of Fikret Amirov.

“You listen to the music and you hear it. You know when the composer is smiling. You feel it.”

This is where Aliev’s choreographic inspiration began, hearing the music Amirov set to the legendary Arabian tale of Scheherazade, for which there are many versions. Festival Ballet fans know that. In 2005 and in 2007 the company presented a one-act Scheherazade by guest choreographer Gianni Di Marco.

“They are two completely different ballets,” says Mihailo Djuric, Festival’s artistic director. “They have different music and are different dramatically.”

Djuric selected Aliev’s ballet because of its “passion” and its “excitement,” and also because of its demanding dancing. Djuric saw Aliev’s A Thousand and One Nights shortly after it premiered in 1996. But he said he had to wait until he felt his company was up to the challenge of performing it.

“It’s dynamic and energetic. It’s very hard. Is it possible that someone living can do this?”

Djuric, who goes by the name of Misha, decided to see if his dancers could live to tell about it. And in early January, after a two-week Christmas break, Festival’s dancers began rehearsing Aliev’s work. One dancer said something to the effect, “Thank you, Misha. You just want to kill us.”

Actually, Aliev, who has been in Providence the last month rehearsing the company, is applying the punishment. And he doesn’t disagree that’s the word for it.

“It’s one of the most challenging dances I’ve ever danced,” Aliev says. “It was the last production I did. I danced this production and the next day I retired.”

Ballets are largely based on jumps and turns. And for this ballet, the basis is big.

“You have to match the music, and the music is so emotional and so expressive,” Aliev says. “So you have to be expressive. To do that in ballet, you have to express yourself physically, with lifts, jumps and turns — and lots of them.”

Pantomime plays no part in this ballet. The story, Aliev says, doesn’t need it.

“Everything is very clear.”

Scheherazade and other women of a particular kingdom are unfaithful. The sultan of the kingdom intends to execute them in return. But their deaths are delayed (1001 nights) by the storytelling of Scheherazade. Here, however, the ballet presents just three of those tales.

“In his music, Amirov highlights the betrayal, but he also highlights the best of women: love, wisdom and beauty. So we chose three stories of the best aspects of women.”

The first act is the betrayal. The second act is three stories: Sinbad, Aladdin and Ali Baba. And then at the end, there’s a flying carpet.

“It’s very important. It’s the cherry on top of the cake.”

Festival Ballet Providence performs Eldar Aliev’s A Thousand and One Nights: The Adventures of Aladdin, Sinbad & Ali Baba this weekend at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, One Avenue of the Arts, Providence. Shows are tomorrow and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. For tickets, $20 to $65, call (401) 421-2787 or visit

Choreographer's website:

Video from one of his performances:

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