The Lottery

Dancers Louise Nadeau & Brian Staihr in Am American in Paris in spring 1987. Photographer Don Middleton.
Dancers: Molly Wagner and Humberto Rivera Blanco. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studios.

Based on Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”
Choreography by Val Caniparoli
Music by Robert Moran
Costume & Scenic Design by Sandra Woodall
Lighting Design by David Finn
Original “chosen one” choreography created on Katie Critchlow & Tom Mattingly
Assistant to the Choreographer: Maiqui Mañosa
Lighting recreated by Trad A Burns

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle a few months after “The Lottery” was published, Ms. Jackson said: “Explaining just what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult. I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village, to shock the story’s readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.”

In a stroke of genius, Val Caniparoli has built a reverberating surprise into The Lottery, his new ballet at Ballet West. Based on Shirley Jackson’s gruesome short story of the same title about ritualized violence in America, the ballet could have been a dreaded experience. Instead, the audience looks forward to each edition. The choreographer decided that when the villagers draw lots, the performers really are going through a chance procedure (echoes of John Cage?) to find out who is the “chosen one” that will be stoned to death. Because of the way the papers are unfolded and shown, the dancers and the audience only gradually see who has been chosen. The other performers have to change from being friendly to ostracizing that character—even if it’s their spouse. We see them basically improvising. Then the chosen one launches into a wrenching solo. All the dancers have rehearsed this coveted solo, but none of the dancers know who will dance it until that moment. Afterward, the whole company gets a rousing ovation and the audience cannot stop talking about it. Of course, part of its success is Caniparoli’s ability to contain a narrative within a clear framework. The ballet will have a long life because of the surprise built into it. A couple of decades ago Mark Morris choreographed a piece where most of the company formed a single diagonal line, and a different dancer each night stepped out for a solo. And I made a piece called Standard Deviation in 1984, where we had three new people every night; they came in for a 15-minute rehearsal just before the performance so they could do a short segment of “partnering” with the choreographed trio. But Caniparoli goes further than either of these examples because he allows the audience to witness the dancers’ reaction to the outcome. He’s provided both the dancers and the audience a stimulating source of unknowing.

—Wendy Perron, Nov. 12, 2012 – Reprinted with permission from Dance Magazine.

The Lottery presented by special arrangement with the children of Shirley Jackson and Literal Media

Kansas City Ballet Premiere: Friday, May 12, 2017. Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

World Premiere: November 2, 2012. Ballet West. Adam Sklute, Artistic Director, Capital Theatre

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