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November Steps [1976, Chicago]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0452
Run Time
0h 19m 42s
Date Produced
"November Steps" is a modern ballet choreographed by Minsa Craig. It was premiered at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in Italy in 1973, and set to Japanese composer Tōru Takemitsu’s 1967 composition of the same name. Costume and stage designs were created by Craig's husband, Italian artist Alberto Burri. These were based on the monochrome white, cracked reliefs from his "Cretti" series. The American premiere of "November Steps" was in November of 1976 in Chicago, performed by the Chicago Ballet. 

This video appears to be a recording of a dress rehearsal of the ballet in Chicago, near the date of its American premiere in 1976.
The video begins with a shot of ten dancers clad in white unitards, arranged on an all-white stage. A video projection is barely visible on the back wall. Seven of the dancers sit in a semicircle, variously posed, and three at center begin moving with the music. Their movements resemble warmup stretches; the rest of the dancers soon join them in these movements. About 2.5 minutes in, the dancers begin to roll over--in 3 waves. They then roll back all together. While the rest remain posed, the dancer at center, and then several others around her, take turns performing solos (though they remain seated). The surrounding dancers occasionally join in movements of the arm or bowings to the ground.

Eventually, the pattern of dancers moving becomes more simultaneous and complex. Finally, over a third of the way into the piece, a dancer at the back stands and begins dancing in a more standard manner. This is followed by a series of other standing solos by other individuals, while the rest remain seated on the ground. Afterwards, two dancers (one male, one female) stand and dance at once; next they come together and dance a pas de deux. To complete it, the male dancer places the female dancer on the shoulders of one of the seated dancers and continues on by himself. Before long, he fetches her again and drags her all the way upstage, continues his solo briefly, and then returns to her for another pas de deux. He once again ends the pas de deux by placing her with another seated dancer; this time, he then turns to dance with another female dancer who has risen to her feet. As if jealous, the original partner stands up and watches the couple dancing, then approaching them and competing for the male dancer's attention. 

The 'love triangle' at center then separates into a literal triangle where each dancer moves alone in place; these three are soon joined by the rest, who all begin standing up in their own isolated positions. Once they are standing, all ten dancers begin slow individualized movements. Then, they suddenly speed up and begin coordinating--many jump and land, turn, or fall at the same time. It appears that in fact, all are performing the same sequence at different intervals. Before long, all are laying on the ground once again. After a few moments, they sit up and begin moving again, one at a time. To end the piece, the triangle of dancers at center each stand for their movements; finally, all freeze in a pose. A female voice (presumably Ruth Page) says "Lights--thank you, you really danced it this time." She explains what she means as the dancers mill about and a man sitting in the audience in front of the camera stands up and begins to move away. The video ends there.
Additional Credit
Craig, Minsa (is choreographer)
Takemitsu, Tōru (is composer)
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)