Published in the program for the opening night of the Ballet
Jean Grand-Maitre approached me with a selection of my songs, which he
wanted to choreograph and present as a ballet, tentatively entitled Dancing Joni.
He came to visit me, and invited my participation, just as I was preparing
a mixed-media show of 64 large canvases - triptychs - depicting various
wars and revolutions. The images had been collected from a dying flat screen TV and
were a combination of dramatizations and documentary images - the dominating colours
being green and pink - an odd palate for depicting death and destruction.
Marching through the canvases are a chorus line of green flag bearing girls.
When Jean saw the images he wished to include them in the presentation. I suggested
that I prepare a selection of songs that would be more compatible with the war images.
We worked together through technical and budget limitations and came up with a ballet
entitled The Fiddle and the Drum. I designed and prepared an accompanying
installation of the art, which would be suspended over the dancers.
I've included two new songs in the ballet but most of the material comes from an album
called Dog Eat Dog, which was poorly received in the '80s, and was almost
immediately repressed for more than 20 years. The set also includes two poems, which I set
to music but did not write. One is Rudyard Kipling's if, and the other a song I call
Slouching Toward Bethlehem, which was adapted from Yates' poem The Second Coming.
With our situation for all earthlings - man and animals - becoming so dire, I felt that it
was frivolous to present a lighter fare - like "fiddling while Rome burned".
JONI MITCHELL, Songwriter