Kansas City Ballet in Voyager in spring 2006. Photographer Steve Wilson
Kansas City Ballet in Voyager in spring 2006. Photographer Steve Wilson

Choreography: Todd Bolender
Music: Dale Eldred

This work was the first in a series of four collaborations between choreographer Todd Bolender and sculptor Dale Eldred. The work’s title acknowledges both source and substance, for the story is that of the universal/everyman’s voyage; the tools for the telling are the glorious artifacts of space exploration.

The music chosen for the ballet is Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade, commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation and first performed September 12, 1954 at the Teatro Fenice, in Venice, Italy, the composer conducting with Isaac Stern as the soloist. Bernstein wrote shortly after completing the score: “There is no literal program for this Serenade, despite the fact that it resulted from a re-reading of Plato’s charming dialogue, The Symposium. The music, like the dialogue, is a series of related statements in praise of love, and generally follows the Platonic form through the succession speakers at the banquet. The ‘relatedness’ of the movements does not depend on common thematic material, but rather on a system whereby each movement evolves out of elements in the preceding one.”

From Chaos rose broad-bosomed Earth, the sure
And everlasting seat of all that is
And after, Love…
-Plato’s Symposium

The ballet, too, is evolutionary and though following Bernstein’s five movements, does not adhere to the literary allusions suggested. In the opening section man is revealed in a swirl of “primordial star-soup”—the beginning of the voyage. In the second section, we see man as an emerging intellect, awakening to the possibility of love, to myth, to contemplation of the cosmic dome. The third section returns to the concept of single identity; it is a revelation of known and knowing individuality. The fourth section celebrates love and its infinite variety: tender, searching, changing, growing, filling. Love is the motivation, and the life-spring. In the fifth and final section one senses the trappings of civilization—knowledge of history, of mathematics, of abstraction. Order and ceremony emerge and with the rising of the cosmic dome comes confirmation of man’s awareness of his intellectuality, his individuality. The work ends in celebration of the voyage thus far, and of that to come.

– Program notes by Sarah Rowland

World Premiere: Kansas City Ballet, May 24, 1984, Lyric Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri

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