A ballet program that promises to be brilliant, bold-as-can-be and possibly precedent-setting will be brought to the Adler Theatre on October 8. Our Will to Live, Ballet Quad Cities’ contribution to the Out of Darkness series (OutOfDarknessQC.com) will present new original choreography by Courtney Lyon and Emily Kate Long celebrating and dramatizing works by Jewish composers who fled the Nazis or tragically died in the camps. [Read Mike Schulz's interview with Ballet Quad Cities' Artistic Director Courtney Lyon at: Ballet Quad Cities' “Our Will to Live,” October 8.]
The significance - and unfortunately, relevance - of this program is deep. Most of these composers and their works have been largely forgotten. This “forgottenness” sadly has enabled the Nazis’ anti-Semitic agenda to continue: to have not only these composers’ physical lives, but also their cultural legacies, their stories, their meanings, be erased from history. In effect, dealing them a kind of double-death. And robbing the world of their immense, first-rank musical contributions. This program is a step toward a reset, resurrecting the music and vivifying it via dance.
Our Will to Live especially focuses on the composers imprisoned at Terezin concentration camp, and the music created there. Terezin was in Czechoslovakia, a small city between Prague and Dresden, and was a “show” camp for Red Cross inspections. As such, it had two orchestras, chamber music groups, a jazz band, and others who regularly gave concerts in the camp. The esteemed violinist Karel Fröhlich, who miraculously survived the camps, said, “For an artist it was a tremendous opportunity to work during the war in his own field, with excellent colleagues, and actually, in a certain sense, an ideal milieu. We did not have to do anything but play music ... . So in one sense it was ideal, and in another sense it was abnormal. We all knew it, and we made the best of it ... . However, in the end, we were deported to Auschwitz.”
Among the composers whose works will be featured are Arnold Schoenberg, Gideon Klein, Sandor Kuti, Rudolf Karel, Pavel Haas, Erwin Schulhoff and others.
In the epilogue of Music In Terezin, author Joza Karas wrote: “However, they are speaking to us. They are pointing out to us with accusing fingers the terrible consequences of moral decay. They are speaking to us about human dignity and the sacredness of life even in the midst of unimaginable misery; they are speaking about the courage of the unbending, unyielding human spirit. And above all, through the tones of the Terezin composers speak to us about the eternal hope for a better tomorrow.”
Despite their tragic end, however, the meaning of these composers’ and artists’ lives - their iron-like determination, defiance, and courage in asserting their will to live as fully as possible, despite the most humiliating, debilitating circumstances - are profoundly inspirational and an eloquent, intense testimony of human dignity. We honor them with this performance.
Ballet Quad Cities' Our Will to Live will be staged in Davenport on Saturday, October 8, admission to the 7:30 p.m. performance is $15-25, and tickets are available by calling (800)745-3000 and visiting AdlerTheatre.com. For more on the dance company itself, call (309)786-3779 and visit BalletQuadCities.com.