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Jean Grand-Maître on bringing back Joni Mitchell's The Fiddle and The Drum 10 years later Print-ready version

by Jean Grand-Maître
Alberta Ballet
March 2019

Dear Dance Lovers,

How thrilling to be remounting, 10 years later, our first ever portrait ballet, Joni Mitchell's The Fiddle and the Drum this May in Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa.

This was the pop ballet which started it all and which brought worldwide acclaim to Alberta Ballet.

Looking back now, I realize just how much this particular creation profoundly changed the life of all of us here at Alberta Ballet. As an artist, having the chance to collaborate with the legendary Joni Mitchell on such an intense level and for so long was a once in a lifetime opportunity and transported me to new levels of creativity. For the dancers, the designers and for our audiences, it marked the beginning of a new era for Alberta Ballet.

Joni Mitchell's The Fiddle and the Drum was an extraordinary coming together of music, visual art, poetry and exploration. Joni Mitchell committed herself to this dance project for three full years creating the libretto, the soundtrack, the set design, the video projections and she even offered us three new and previously unheard compositions which premiered with our ballet. The BBC was there as well as the New York Times and we received national coverage unlike anything we have ever seen before or since.

"With our situation for all earthlings - man and animal - becoming so dire, I felt that it was frivolous to present a lighter fare - like "fiddling while Rome burned".

-Joni Mitchell / The Fiddle and the Drum

Joni's pensive brooding regarding the environmental crisis and the ongoing aggression between nations - especially the Iraq conflict - were her most prescient preoccupations at that time. These themes became the central focus for this ballet. Unlike many other "singers of conscience" from the 60's, Joni never hung up her beads as her struggle to raise awareness, on such fundamental 21st century issues, goes on.

The Fiddle and the Drum is first a ballet about hope shining like a beacon in a darkening world.

Even though Joni's dire prophecies (which she had already expressed years before the Greenpeace movement was even born), are becoming true and the world is already facing catastrophic developments due to severe climate change, she somehow continues to believe in the possibility of miracles and that positive change can happen. This is why all of her songs contain both great beauty and great pain. They are a true portrayal of humanity, representing both the beauty and the horror we are capable of.

What still amazes me, so many years later is how Joni is able to sprinkle hope, serenity and yes even astounding beauty amidst her truly disturbing inventory of human follies and indecencies.

The gravitas as well as the brilliant musical pearls which we find in her songs inspired me to create powerful dances as a tribute to humanity's true inner-potential. Her amazing grooves, her eternal melodies and her unique poetry have inspired a ballet which I personally believe is my best work.

To learn more about Joni Mitchell's The Fiddle and The Drum, or to buy tickets, visit this page.

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