Elements Ballet is excited to announce a special a preview performance of their new work-in-development, Atlantis, titled Atlantis Rising, Saturday, August 24 at Studio5 in Evanston. This concert will present a first draft of the choreography for the original ballet in-full by Directors Mike Gosney and Joseph Caruana with Artistic Associate Victoria Vargas, as well as encore showings of four films from the company’s 2018 production Elements & Chill. The Elements Board of Directors will also host a special post-show champagne reception for VIPs and Season Subscribers.
THE PROJECT HISTORY
In the summer of 2006, during the first year of Elements Contemporary Ballet’s operation, Mike Gosney and Joseph Caruana (the co-directors of Elements) created an original concept for a story ballet. Inspired while walking through an exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Gardens titled Garden of Atlantis, they imagined a new full-length fantasy ballet based on the myth of Atlantis. Their story would involve an evil queen, a priestess, and a slave, as well as an ending that through creative stagecraft would portray the great flood that famously destroyed the mythical island. The prospect of creating the first ever ballet to interpret the Atlantis myth seemed incredibly exciting to Gosney and Caruana at the time, but it was clear to them that to do the story justice they would need to build larger resources and audience for their then-budding dance company (Elements was just in its first year of operation). Now, twelve years later, the Elements directors feel the company has grown substantially and the time is right to bring their vision to life and begin production on Atlantis.
A project of such large proportions has taken much time to develop. While Gosney and Caruana have been working on Atlantis off and on over the past ten years – some experimental choreography was developed in 2012, as well as major work to write the libretto and have the artists begin the storyboard – they had not devoted much of Elements’ time and resources to its creation until 2017, when the company became primarily devoted to developing this work for the stage. Since then, Elements has workshopped material for the ballet through the creation of short films inspired by the libretto and gala showings of works-in-progress. For this preview performance, a loose structure of the ballet’s choreography will exist, without costuming, set, and creature effects, although artwork and accompanying narrative text will be projected. The ballet’s world premiere date, which will incorporate revised choreography and full production elements, has been set for summer 2020.
Atlantis will be a multi-media production. Outside artists already working on the project’s initial development thus far have been Chloe Feldman Emissen, a watercolor artist in Massachusetts who has been creating artwork and a storyboard for the production since 2011, and Miata Boayue, a fiction and fantasy writer who is currently working on a companion novel for the ballet inspired by Gosney and Caruana’s libretto. Joining the team for the August premiere at Studio5 will be local sketch artist MJ Ernst and lighting designer Joshua Paul Weckesser from Bread and Roses Productions.
This preview performance will also be an opportunity for the audience to give feedback on the new work. By holding a post-show artist reception with audience members and including program surveys, the creative team hopes to be able to gain insight into the audience’s reaction to the work and what elements of the production and story may or may not be effective.
The myth of Atlantis is one that has had a major impact on literature, film, and television, but has not yet inspired the creation of a popular ballet. Drawing inspiration from various sources such as Plato, Edgar Cayce, and new-age pop-culture speculations, and building original characters and a complex story arc, Gosney and Caruana have developed a libretto that is part fairytale and part epic drama.
The ballet’s story takes place during the final days before the fall of the mythical ancient empire Atlantis. The Atlanteans, here a matriarchal society powered by slave labor and ruled by a vicious queen, are conquerors – though they have just been harshly defeated in battle by Greece as well as depleted their natural resources to the point of near starvation. Upon the finding of a giant, mysterious crystal deep within the Earth that is discovered to be usable as both a super-weapon and power source, Atlantis raises its army once again, intent on overtaking the still-developing western world in order to to save its people. However, the queen’s cruelty to her lessors, mistreatment of the natural world, and defiance in light of a foreboding prophecy ultimately twist with the hubris of a rural religious sect and a government filled with conspiring players to bring about the destruction of the greatest civilization the world has ever known.
A tale with a strong relevance to contemporary times, Atlantis weaves together grand storytelling with intimate relationships as the story’s central figures battle with their desire for love, power, and freedom, and decide what they are willing to sacrifice for what they hope to achieve.
SCORE: VANGELIS’ MYTHODEA
Atlantis will perform to a recording of Mythodea — Music for the NASA Mission: 2001 Mars Odyssey, a 1993 choral symphony by Greek electronic composer and artist Vangelis. Originally premiered in 1993, Mythodea was published in 2001 as well as played and recorded in concert at the Temple of Zeus in Athens, Greece, by Vangelis with the London Metropolitan Orchestra, sopranos Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman, and the chorus of the Greek National Opera. The record was officially released to coincide with the 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft entering the orbit of planet Mars.
“I made up the name Mythodea from the words myth and ode. And I felt in it a kind of shared or common path with NASA's current exploration of the planet [Mars]. Whatever we use as a key — music, mythology, science, mathematics, astronomy — we are all working to decode the mystery of creation, searching for our deepest roots.
- Vangelis on Mythodea
This music was chosen as the score for Atlantis not only because of its grand, cinematic sound, but also because of its serendipitous connections to both ancient Greek mythology and contemporary technological achievement. Not to mention, to quote Gosney and Caruana, “The story for Atlantis can be found in this music!.” Meaning, when they came upon the music part-way through their development of the libretto, the creators found that what they had written thus far matched certain movements of Mythodea perfectly, and what was yet-to-be written was very much inspired by other movements.
Tickets for Atlantis Rising are $25/$25 in advance and $30/$35 at-door and VIP tickets which will include the Post-Show Reception are $50. Tickets can be purchased at https://atlantisrising.brownpapertickets.com/
Article by Sarah Perry Wilson.