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Please follow the following link to see Dances of Life and Death, the short film.
Elizabeth Bailey (soprano), Brno Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Mikel Toms.
Music by Andrew Webb-Mitchell
Words by Joanna Boulter
“In Songs of Awe and Wonder, Andrew Webb-Mitchell has created a stunning set of symphonic songs on a grand scale. The music is full of passion and heroism, with glorious harmony and beautiful textures. The orchestration is beautifully detailed and the vocal writing creates a soaring line that carries the listener right through the vast canvas of the cycle. The work is dedicated to Mahler but, although the scale of the work is comparable to a Mahlerian song cycle, the music is in no way derivative and Andrew Webb-Mitchell has his own unique style and sound-world.”
Tasmin Little, violinist
Dances of Life and Death is an intimate portrait of Anna Pavlova as she prepares for the role in which she became most closely associated, The Dying Swan.
Anna Pavlova was a Russian ballerina of the late 19th and the early 20th century. She is widely regarded as one of the finest classical ballet dancers in history and was most noted as a principal artist of the Imperial Russian Ballet and the Ballets Russes of Sergei Diaghilev. Pavlova is perhaps most renowned for creating the role of The Dying Swan, a solo choreographed for her by Michel Fokine. The ballet, created in 1905, is danced to Le cygne from The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns. Pavlova was purported to have studied the movements of swans in depth before attempting her performance. In 1912, she bought a home in London called Ivy House, which had an extensive garden and a pond. Several pictures were taken during this time showing her entwined in an embrace with her favorite swan, Jack.
While touring in The Hague, Netherlands, Pavlova was told that she had pneumonia and required an operation. She was also told that she would never be able to dance again if she went ahead with it. She refused to have the surgery, saying "If I can't dance then I'd rather be dead." She died of pleurisy, three weeks short of her 50th birthday. She was holding her costume from The Dying Swan when she spoke her last words, "Play the last measure very softly."
Every movement seemed to be an understated reinterpretation of the swan.
And the people passing by wondered who on Earth she could be.
Her demeanour, so convincing.
Her charisma, so entrancing.
Each and every gesture that she made revealed a deep instinctive understanding of the role.
By the water it was plain to see one was learning from the other.
This was what she did and who she was, her nature,
servant of an all consuming art,
enacting a transformation and slowly becoming the embodiment of sound.
Dance, dance through the threshold of fear.
Dance, dance with abandon.
In the twilight, an ethereal look.
In the darkness, unforgettable words.
"Play the last measure softly."