Choreography: Todd Bolender
Music: Samuel Barber
Costume and set design: Rouben Ter-Arutunian
First performed: New York City Ballet, 1955
First performed by KCB: May 29, 1981
About the ballet
A stylish, comic story ballet with six scenes, Todd Bolender’s Souvenirs was first presented by New York City Ballet in 1955. Bolender’s imaginative process began with the sound of Samuel Barber’s Suite, “Souvenirs,” originally written for one piano and four hands and later orchestrated by the composer. The music evokes America’s ‘Art Nouveau’ era, and led Bolender to create a humorous, fast moving tribute to silent film stars Gloria Swanson, Charlie Chaplin and Theda Bara (“The Vamp”). Set in an elegant seaside hotel in the early part of the twentieth century, the comic encounters, corridor and bedroom vignettes, and rapid-fire resolutions of the beach scene make Souvenirs a loving tribute to dancers and silent movies. “It’s about a point of view,” the choreographer said during rehearsals. “I wanted to convey the wonderful simplicity of silent film acting, to get the point across with movement.”
A stylish and stylized evocation of America before The Great War, Todd Bolender’s Souvenirs was first presented by the New York City Ballet in 1955. Samuel Barber’s Suite, Souvenirs, originally for two pianos and later orchestrated by the composer, suggested to Bolender an American landscape, an elegant spa, perhaps Newport, Palm Beach, or Atlantic City of the era ‘Art Nouveau’.
The imaginative process which began for Bolender with the sound of Souvenirs became a nostalgic progress through the films of Gloria Swanson, Chaplin, and Theda Bara. From the opening encounters in the lobby through a series of vignettes in corridors and bedrooms to the rapid-fire resolution of each little drama in the final Sennett-style beach scene, it is Bolender’s valentine to dancers and early silent movies.
The mischievous plots amuse, but the heart of the ballet lies in the use and recording of the period’s popular dance idioms coupled with the vivid texture of Samuel Barber’s music, a work commissioned by Lincoln Kirstein in 1952.
World Premiere: November 15, 1955, City Center of Music and Drama, New York
Kansas City Ballet Premiere: May 29, 1981, Music Hall