Grand-Maitre on adapting Joni Mitchell’s Ethiopia to ballet

Jean Grand-Maitre, director of the Alberta Ballet, spoke with Vue Weekly about working out the choreography for “Ethiopia,” one of the new songs in the expanded ballet The Fiddle and the Drum. 

“I’m a lyrical choreographer,” he says. “African dance is not something that white people like me can do. It’s not in our blood.”

“We didn’t want to pretend to be African dancers,” he says. “We wouldn’t be able to rise to that occasion. So we took some of the basic African steps and transformed them, using some of our own vocabulary. We met half way—white man meets black man.

“It was interesting to see how the inspiration from African dance influenced my choreography to go in a direction I’ve never taken in my life,” he continues. “It was a big challenge, but everybody’s telling us now through the Prairie tour that it’s their favourite song in the whole ballet!”

The article also talks with Grand-Maitre about the other two additions to the show, “Woodstock” and “Shine”. Of the latter, he calls it a lullabye and says:

“But it’s a lullaby no child should hear. It’s about children in countries where bombs are falling,” says Grand-Maître. “But Joni also sings about the beauty of the world. It’s a very poetic and beautiful ballad.”

More at the link.


About Corey Blake

Corey Blake does things on the Internet, and sometimes even in real life.
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