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The rarity of it is only one reason to see 'L'Histoire'

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The rarity of it is only one reason to see 'L'Histoire'


News Arts Writer


L'Histoire du Soldat features, from left, Linda Spriggs, Peter Sparling and Bill DeYoung of Ann Arbor Dance Works.

It is unusual to see Stravinsky's ‘L’Histoire du Soldat in its original form - scored for seven musicians, with dancers, and narrators - performed today. The rarity of the event is just one reason why this Friday’s joint production by the Detroit Chamber Winds and Ann Arbor Dance Works at the Power Center promises to be special.

There have been other productions set to the Stravinsky score, among them the newest, by Jiri Kylian of Netherlands Dance Theater, which will receive its New York premiere this week. Eliot Feld choreographed a version of “L’Histoire” in 1971 (it appeared in Ann Arbor at the Power Center in 1980) but the original story was rearranged considerably, the narrators were missing and it was performed to taped music.

“L’Histoire du Soldat” was originally born of economic necessity in 1918, when Stravinsky found himself in Switzerland and badly in need of money. The idea was to create an inexpensive production that could tour. Stravinsky and poet C. F. Ramuz collaborated on the project. Ramuz wrote a poem from a Russian folk tale, which became the basis for the production. It is the story of a young soldier who makes a pact with the devil when he agrees to trade his fiddle for the book of untold wealth.

Stravinsky composed the score for strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion and the production’s first performance was in September 1918 with Ernest Ansermet conducting. But the proposed tour never materialized. Every member of the company caught the Spanish influenza that was sweeping through Europe at the time.

This week’s Detroit Chamber Winds/Ann Arbor Dance Works production promises to be in the spirit of the1918 original with its own cast of musicians, dancers, and narrators.

The musicians, who are members of either the Detroit Symphony or the Michigan Opera Theatre Orchestras, will be led by Winds’ artistic advisor H. Robert Reynolds.

Dancers include Peter Sparling in the role of the Soldier, Bill De Young as the Devil, and Linda Spriggs as the princess. All are faculty members of the University of Michigan Department of Dance. Narrators for the production are Stephen Hurley, John McCollum and Stephen Roberts.

One reason for the infrequent mounting of the production is the difficulty in coordinating its various parts. Another is that many choreographers are hesitant to tackle Stravinsky.

Sparling, who choreographed the work, was not without his own initial reservations.

“I got a head start earlier in the year,” said Sparling of the project, “when I set the tango, valse and ragtime - the ‘danciest’ part of the score - on a company in Hawaii.” On the long flight there, while other passengers plugged into the inflight movie, Sparling, score in hand, tuned to Stravinsky via Walkman.

By the time the plane touched down ideas had begun brewing. After Sparling set the six and one-half minute section on the Dances We Dance Company, the rest of the 50-minute piece, even with its jagged rhythms, did not seem so difficult. Some parts were even fun. “I have always wanted to play the fiddle and dance,” says Sparling who is also a violinist. "This is the closest (with a foam fiddle prop) that I’ve gotten to it.”

Also included on the Friday’s program is Samuel Barber’s “Summer Music” for woodwind quintet with choreography by U-M dance faculty member Jessica Fogel. “It’s lyrical and romantic, it’s indolent and languid, it’s playful and exuberant,” says Fogel of the music. Her choreography, she says, conjures up many moods and images of a day on the river. Onstage, a canoe and flowing silk panels suggest the airiness of summertime. The dance will be performed by Fogel, DeYoung, Marsha Pabalis, and Jim Moreno.

The Detroit Chamber Winds and Ann Arbor Dance Works will perform Stravinsky's 1/Histoire du Soldat' Friday at 8 p.m. at the Power Center, 121 Fletcher St. Tickets are $8-12 available at all Ticketmaster outlets or by calling 7W-TKTS. Tickets are also available as part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival Dance Pass.

At the festival


(CHILDREN’S DAY) MAJOR EVENT 2 p.m.. Power Center

Famous People Players ($5-$10)

POWER CENTER LAWN (all events free)

12:30 p.m. - EMU

MasterMimes 12:30 p.m. — Gym America, tumbling demonstration 1 p.m. — Blue Dragon Dance Theater

TOP OF THE PARK (all events free)

7 p.m. performance —

SCool JAzz (10-voice vocal jazz ensemble; Bradley Bloom, director)

10 p.m. movies — 'Dr. Seuss on the Loose' (1972), The Lorax' (1972), 'Cat in the Hat' (1972)

MONDAY MAJOR EVENT 8 p.m.. Power Center —

'Double Date for Dance' — J. Parker Copley Dance Company and People Dancing — Whitley Setrakian and Dancers ($8-$12)

TOP OF THE PARK (all events free)

7 p.m. performance —

David Flippo, piano (new age music)

10 p.m. movie — "Shall we Dance?" 1937