May 25, 2004

Winston adapts fairy tale for the Grimm surrounding of Ida Noyes

For his senior project, Mark Winston decided to adapt three Grimm Brothers tales to music. After bringing a few students on board, the project has grown extensively to include dancers, costumes, and stilts. The piece will be performed this Saturday as part of FOTA.

Winston took an adaptation of The Seven Ravens, The Twelve Sons, and The Six Swans as his story. The music and dancers, without words or vocal parts, portray a married couple who have seven sons but lack a daughter. The father kills his sons, and a daughter is born. She finds out that she had brothers and dreams of the brothers as seven giant ravens, her mother as a witch, and her father as a giant. During the dream, she finds out that her father murdered her brothers and watches them kill him in giant form.

Winston went for "dark and dreamy" with this four-movement piece, using simple, childish melodies and ostinatos in order to capture the simplicity of the writing style in the Grimm fairy tales. The orchestra consists of a flute, clarinet, bassoon, electric guitar, and string quartet, veering away from Winston's usual use of piano.

Winston says he picked the guitar because, without distortion, it sounds like crap. "It can turn those very childish melodies into twisted distortions of what they would sound like on another instrument," Winston said Shying away from virtuosic moments in the piece, Winston instead opted for abrupt changes in harmony and tempo to add drama and emotion, making it extraordinarily difficult to dance to. However, choreographer and second-year in the College Lixian Hantover—working mostly with students who have no dancing experience—uses the disjointed sections to create more of a dream-like mood by abandoning the hope of the dancers responding to accurate counts in the music.

Through the seven ravens are pretty graceless, they're good sports (and seem to really like jumping around in the costumes designed by Asta Hostetter). The ravens have huge wings extended by wooden poles inside the arms. The father will end the dance on dramatic foot-and-a-half-tall stilts.

Because she is working with huge costumes, temperamental music, and beginning dancers, Hantover opted for simple choreography. The two seasoned dancers are Marya Spont, who plays the mother, and Kate Swanson, who plays the daughter. Both of the dancers are magnificently expressive.

As suggested by University Theatre director Heidi Coleman, the piece will be performed in Ida Noyes, whose dark, cavernous rooms do not need to be altered to create mood for the piece. Unfortunately, during the course of brainstorming, the group had to abandon Meredith Ries' set design, which included a box that worked as a coffin, toybox, and doorway.

Winston's music is, as usual, beautiful and strange, and Hantover's and Hostetter's storytelling abilities with dance and costume are superb. The piece will be performed only once, at 7 P.M. on Saturday in the Ida Noyes Third Floor Theater.