Choreography: John Butler
Music: Lee Hoiby
Debut: Harkness Ballet, 1967 / Lone Isaksen and Lawrence Rhodes
John Butler Foundation, 2010
The first ballet in “101” is “After Eden,” a balletic-modern piece depicting Adam and Eve after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Research tells me that this was Butler’s most successful ballet, highlighting his affinity for melding classical ballet with Martha Graham-inspired modern dance.
Unfortunately, I am not able to locate a live or archived performance of the ballet. Images from recent performances, including one by Richmond Ballet intrigue me, as does “101”‘s story outline. I wish to see for myself the complex implications of Adam and Eve’s relationship – love, dependency, anger, guilt and forgiveness – and think about its universal parallels in romantic relationships generally. I’m also interested to judge for myself whether Butler was truly successful in conveying these complexities through his choreography.
Reviewer Anna Brady says, “Mr. Butler apparently demanded not only emotional depth but also technical excellence.”
Reviewer Eric Taub, however, is less impressed: “…despite Butler’s gifts for the telling little gesture or big, eye-opening pose, his phrasing is often disappointingly static and repetitive. He’s better at telling a story dramatically than kinetically, despite the one-time novelty of his angular, non-representational modernity. It’s as if he’d learned to make all the pigments in Graham’s palette without quite knowing how to use them in a painting. Even in this very active pure-dance work, the actual dancing often seems flat and illustrative, like Butler’s telling you, rather than showing you, the story.”
Readers: have you seen “After Eden?” Can you put forth your own opinion on Butler’s choreographic ability – flat and repetitive vs. expressive and innovative – and his importance in the historic canon? Do you know where I can access a video of the ballet?