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Photo: Patrick Frenette.

SunMi Park and Tristan Brosnan in Jessica Lang's Children's Songs Dance. Photo: Erin Baiano.
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Ballet Bubbles
June 28, 2021
ABT Studio Company Spring Festival on YouTube features a special work by Jessica Lang, created in collaboration with the legendary jazz musician Chick Corea.

"My creative process with Chick was magical."

When Chick Corea viewed a rehearsal video of Children’s Songs Dance for the first time, he said “It’s drop-dead gorgeous and so aesthetically pleasing…controlling the body with such beauty and grace is the highest form of anything in the physical universe.”

The ballet is the product of a powerful collaboration between the late composer Corea and choreographer Jessica Lang created for ABT Studio Company, in celebration of Lang’s 20 years choreographing for ABT. Lang and Corea shared a love for music and movement that made Children’s Songs Dance a very intimate and beloved project.

As Lang says, “My creative process with Chick was magical.” While set to premiere in spring of 2020, the debut of Children’s Songs Dance was delayed while life stuttered around it.

“It’s drop-dead gorgeous and so aesthetically pleasing…controlling the body with such beauty and grace is the highest form of anything in the physical universe.”

In February of 2021, Corea unexpectedly passed away from a rare cancer. This unfortunate turn of events, paired with a pandemic that delayed all performances, brought a newfound weight to Children’s Songs Dance. The magical collaboration would now celebrate and honor the musical talents of Corea, awaiting 16 months before its global premiere.

According to Lang, “The ballet draws its inspiration from the transition in life between being a child and becoming an adult, with the goal of never losing the spirit of play.”

Children’s Songs Dance finds a balance between playfulness and maturity through movement, costuming, and brilliant musicality set to selections from Corea’s work Children’s Songs. Corea himself was an artist determined to celebrate the playful spirit even as life’s challenges age us. This passion was fueled by Corea’s exploration of jazz and classical music, finding a balance between the traditional and the youthful. At a vulnerable time of losing Corea and living amidst a global crisis, Children’s Songs Dance would take its audiences to the forgotten place of optimism.

Chick Corea was surrounded by jazz music at an early age, quickly drawing inspiration from his father who played trumpet and led a jazz band in Boston. His love for music and piano brought him to New York City, and through his exploration and experimentation, he continued to follow in his father’s footsteps. From his band, Return to Forever, to his own independent endeavors, Corea’s musical creations touched millions and earned him 25 Grammys and 67 nominations.

“The ballet draws its inspiration from the transition in life between being a child and becoming an adult, with the goal of never losing the spirit of play.”

In one of his final collaborations, Corea was able to work with Lang, a seasoned ballet choreographer with over 100 original works for companies worldwide. The ballet was given its digital World Premiere on June 3, 2021 as part of ABT Studio Company Spring Festival.

Seven young dancers took to the stage, honoring Corea’s legacy and celebrating his passion for music. Their performance was filmed at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park in Tivoli, NY, following several weeks of intense “bubble” rehearsals at Kaatsbaan and Silver Bay YMCA on the shore of Lake George. The dancers of ABT Studio Company, all under 22, recognized and connected with the intent of the piece as they too transition into adulthood. Their movement seemed to echo the curiosity and energy that Corea’s music intended to produce.

In a 17-minute piece, Tristan Brosnan, Cy Doherty, Tillie Glatz, Elwince Magbitang, Andrew Robare, SunMi Park, and Yoon Jung Seo executed the vision set by Lang and Corea only a short time ago.

From the moments of unison recognizing each changing note in Corea’s composition, to a meaningful pas de deux sharing moments of struggle emphasized by piano, Children’s Songs Dance captures all that Corea and Lang hoped to achieve through their collaboration. Sadly, we lost this musical legend, but Corea’s brilliant music and powerful spirit remain alive and honored through the joy of dance.

Grace Robinson, Press Intern for Summer of 2021