“Argh, pressure!” Composer Lido Pimienta said, after saying that she and choreographer Andrea Miller were the first female team to be commissioned to create a piece for the New York City Ballet.
when she dances,sky to catchMILF With Costumes estban cortazariThe company’s debuts fall fashion festival On Thursday night both women will make new dashes. For Miller, a contemporary choreographer who danced with the Batsheva Ensemble in Israel before founding his New York company, gallim dance, this will be the first time he has scored a piece on point. and for pimienta, a Canadian-Colombian singer-songwriter Whose music incorporates indigenous, Afro-Colombian and electronic elements, “Sky to Hold” is their first theatrical score.
More ground broken: Pimienta, who incorporated her voice and lyrics that she would perform live, in the score, is also the first female composer of color to produce a piece at the City Ballet. The score is not the company’s typical fare: it includes valenato, a popular folk music style from Colombia, and dembo (“heavy rhythm, very groovy,” said Pimienta), from the Dominican Republic, sometimes making unconventional use of classical instruments. harp
Most of the collaboration between Miller, who lives in New Haven, and Pimienta, who lives in Toronto and London, Ontario, has been done remotely. But last week Pimienta arrived in New York and rehearsed.
“It’s great to have her with us, to see and respond to us as artists,” said lead dancer Sarah Morans in a phone interview. “Andrea warns us, learn the music, don’t just rely on her voice because she can’t do the same thing in every show. I love her; you have to stick out this time.”
In a video interview, with Miller on a train and Pimienta in a makeshift apartment, they discussed the development of the score and choreography, and how Pimienta was performing in the work. Here are edited excerpts of the conversation.
How did this collaboration come about? did you know each other?
Andrea Miller I told a friend, who was working with Lido at the time, that I had received a commission from City Ballet and that I really wanted to take music seriously. He said, “Hang in there: it’s Lido Pimienta.” I knew Lido’s music, he’s a superstar, so my jaw dropped. My husband and I, and our kids, listen to her music all the time, and it’s so exciting, so inspiring, you want to dance to it with your headphones on.
lido pimienta It’s funny, when Andrea approached me, I was working on the music for my next album and was really thinking about the orchestration.
This is my first time doing something so big, and I’m always fighting the feeling of cheater syndrome. But I told myself: Even though I’ve never composed for 66 musicians before, the music I produce has 66 channels. If Andrea thinks I’m worthy, that’s fine!
How did you get started? Did you discuss specific ideas, images or musical styles?
pimienta We were constantly communicating and dreaming together. I kept looking at Andrea’s work, which was very inspiring to me. My songs are about me and my lived experience, but for it to be about Andrea and the dancers too, I wanted to create a story with music that we could all tap into.
millman It was a particularly dark time during the pandemic, and I was thinking about the heat, the sun on my face, dancing with strangers! I was longing for the warmth, of the warmth, of the intimacy. I made Lido realize this, and I also told him which parts of his music were very inspiring to me.
pimienta My job was to translate those thoughts and feelings into music. As someone from Colombia, I know the sun hits your face when you lie in a hammock. It gave me an introduction; A feeling of warmth, but also of tension.
I am a singer and I would say that my work is all about storytelling, so once I had this idea in my mind, I had this whole film happening in my mind. I thought, I should tell Andrea, so I sat down and wrote and painted the story I saw.
It is about a seed who falls in love with a storm. To let in the light and the heat, you go through the storm, and that became the musical thread.
Andrea, how did the development of the score affect the development of choreography?
millman Lido is very generous, and he lets me listen without telling me how anything should be. But after getting the story, I had much more to say and discover. There was something in her story and drawings that reminded me of both the magical realism of Colombia and the symbolism and mysticism of Chagall, whose work I love.
In ballet, I have a seed character, Taylor Stanley, and a stormtrooper, Sarah Morans, but I’m not worried about it. Its shape and feel are just to absorb and take away, like looking at a painting.
Lido, how does it feel to see a visual counterpart to your work?
pimienta It feels powerful, it feels extreme – I feel an abundance. When I see the dance reacting to the rhythm, the sound, the melody, it is very emotional for me. I told Andrea, you might have to get another singer, because I can cry throughout the ballet!
Was it always part of the plan that you would sing on stage?
pimienta Never in a million years did I think I would perform. But after Andrea got the first draft of the score, she said, Where’s your voice? I thought, OK, I’ll be in the pit, and she said, “We’ll put you on stage and give you some steps.” I said no, so the agreement is that I’ll be on the edge of the stage.
Now, of course, I’m completely into fiction. I had my fitting yesterday, and I thought, How awesome am I going to be? Maybe I’ll walk around the stage!
The pressure is on to be the first female composer-choreographer team to create an entirely new work for the company. (Violet Vardy composed a dance in 1988 to an existing score by Marie Jean van Apeldoorn.) It is still notable; Are things changing?
millman Significant progress has been made, but I also feel sorry for all the talented women who did not get choreographed or composed or recognized in their time. And I’m always aware that when we talk about turning things around, we’re not thinking globally.
pimienta I’m South American, indigenous, black, brown, an immigrant – sometimes I feel like I’m just getting those boxes checked. So it’s incredible to have this support and trust.
It makes me sad for this world of classical music and ballet that it is so remarkable that we are women because in my world of music I work mostly with women. But that’s not the only thing. It is important to have more people like me because there is also a class division; People don’t necessarily feel comfortable going to a symphony concert or a ballet. It is a matter of great pity. To me, the classical world actually feels very contemporary, which is what’s happening right now. I want more people to understand how strong and inspiring this can be.