Magazine article Dance Magazine

Val Caniparoli: The Choreographer Stays Open to All Possibilities

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Val Caniparoli: The Choreographer Stays Open to All Possibilities

Article excerpt

Decidedly down-to-earth and modest, Val Caniparoli is nonetheless in demand as a choreographer around the world, from Salt Lake City to Singapore. By his own estimation he's choreographed mare than a hundred works, although he says he's never counted. His ballets range from the brooding drama Ibsen's House and the aching romanticism of his Lady of the Camellias to sultry and saucy numbers like Aquilarco and the exuberance of his popular Lambarena. This month Ballet West premieres Caniparoli's The Lottery, based on the shocking short story by Shirley Jackson about a mysterious ritual that takes place every year in a small American town.

On a busy afternoon during a quick stopover in San Francisco between rehearsals at Tulsa Ballet and Ballet West, Caniporali sat dawn to talk with Mary Ellen Hunt about the inspiration far his latest work and haw still being a dancer an San Francisco Ballet's roster keeps him grounded.

How did a ballet about The Lottery come about? Actually, I read the story in junior high school, and I loved it. It obviously stuck with me. I've been trying to do this ballet since 1987. At one point San Francisco Ballet was going to do it; at another, Pacific Northwest Ballet. But I've always backed out of doing it, because I couldn't find the music. If you have an idea and it's hard to find the music to match it, that's when you look for a commissioned score.

What was it that you were looking for in the music? A lot of it had to do with the specific ending I had in mind. If I were younger and more foolish, I might have picked The Rite of Spring, but I didn't want the intensity of all that foreshadowing. The music is a commissioned score from Robert Moran, who works in Philadelphia now. You really hear the Americana in it, but with a little bit of an edge, that sense that something's just not right.

Can you talk about the ending that you created? It's an unusual part of the ballet. I had to convince the Shirley Jackson estate to allow me to create this work--I pitched it to her son--because it's not going to be a literal translation of the story. It has the feel of it, and I wanted to call it The Lottery, but the ending is very different.

There are 14 dancers onstage, and each of them draws from the lottery. The twist is that no one knows who will be chosen to finish the ballet until the very last second. It ends with a really killer solo--we did a male version and a female version of it. So everyone will really be on edge because it could be any of them.

When you start a work like this, do you have an image of the piece already in your mind? With The Lottery I only had the picture of the beginning and the ending, although that can make or break a ballet. …

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