Thursday, February 3, 2011

Think Spring!

The groundhog gurus have decided. Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania says spring is around the corner. That's welcome news to Pennsylvania residents who are digging out from the last snow and looking skyward for the next one. Down south, Birmingham Bill in Alabama says six more weeks of winter. Garden enthusiasts there are already seeing buds on early bloomers. More winter? More cold with deceptive patches of ice? Yuck. Let’s honor the state of Pennsylvania today and hope Phil is the critter with the correct inside information.

BALLET FOR MARTHA: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca.

How do you translate movement and music into words? This book is about collaboration.

First came Martha Graham, the godmother of modern dance. She wanted to create a ballet, “A legend of American living” set in the hills of western Pennsylvania on the wedding day of a young farmer and his bride.

Then Aaron Copland, the composer, responded to Martha’s invitation to create music for her ballet.

Add the sculptor Isamu Noguchi, one of the world’s most revered artists. As the musical progressed, he collaborated with Martha Graham on over twenty sets which came together to produce Appalachian Spring.

This is only part of the story. Behind the scenes of the book itself are three more creative talents. Authors
Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan have worked together before. If you enjoy this book, you will want to look up the stunning picture book Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Through the Gates and Beyond. Acclaimed as a pair, Greenberg and Jordan teamed with illustrator Brian Floca who is also accomplished and award winning. None of this has anything to do with awards, however. These three artists are like the three they bring to life on the page. Determined. Detailed. Thorough.

The illustrator captures the most subtle movement of the dancers, put there by Martha to deliver the most power. The writers embrace the energy, the swirling, twirling, strutting, leaping, contrasted with a sudden stillness, quiet, rest, as contemplative as rocking a baby. Art and text stitch a tapestry of life and love.

Even as the players move toward the stage lights to take the final bow, it’s obvious that this classic will be performed for generations to come by generations of dancers and musicians, set builders, actors, and producers. A link from past to future.

Martha Graham found the words "Appalachian Spring" in a poem and liked the sound of it. So do I. Hurry, spring!

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