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A NEW 'SLEEPWALK' : Choreographer Rogers Dreams Up a Revised Version for L.A. Ballet to Preview in Irvine

July 29, 1993|CHRIS PASLES | Chris Pasles covers music and dance for The Times Orange County Edition.

Choreographer Raiford Rogers felt fairly satisfied with his "Sleepwalk" ballet, until he had a chance to see it along with an audience at the Los Angeles premiere last year.

"Even though we like to think of pieces being complete, they're never completed," Rogers said. "It is very seldom that a piece comes out exactly the way one wants it."

So now he's giving himself a second chance to get the work just the way he wants it.

The Los Angeles Chamber Ballet will dance a new version of "Sleepwalk" in a preview performance Friday at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. The official premiere performances will be at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in Los Angeles on Aug. 4 and 5. Rogers is co-director of the company with Victoria Koenig.

The earlier version was a single act. Rogers has revised the choreography and added a second act. The title has expanded a bit too. In addition to "Sleepwalk," each act gets a separate designation. Act I is "Question of Balance," and Act II is "Problem of Dreams."

"I realized the ballet needed to continue and have some kind of resolution," Rogers explained. "As in most ballets, or most dances, the piece, when you finally get it on the stage, you, along with the audience, get to see it for the first time.

"Having seen the piece, I found it was telling me which way to go. When I was first doing it, I was pushing it in a certain direction. What I realized was that I needed to distill or take movement away from what I did last year. I saw that 'less was more.'

"I wanted to take out all excessive steps and get it down to the bone as much as possible. It's not minimal. That's something else these days."

The music he used was drawn from operas that include key scenes of dreaming or sleepwalking. For Act I, he picked Bellini's "La Sonnambula," Verdi's "Macbeth" and Dvorak's "Rusalka." For Act II, he turned to Cherubini's "Medea."

"I was intrigued by the mystery of the pieces, the genuine lyricism and beauty of the music," he said. "A very strong, profound expression comes from that.

"My emphasis in choreography always has been on aspiring to the condition of the music," he added. "Music responds to an inarticulate need in all of us. We don't know why it makes us feel a certain way. That's what's so mysterious and powerful about it."

But it goes beyond that.

"I was intrigued by that crossing over into another's world. I'm using 'Medea' because it's really about betrayal, betrayal of dreams.

"I felt with these sleepwalking arias, everyone was searching for completion in their lives. Something was missing. It was either a relationship or love of God or understanding of life. And I wanted to go more that way this time.

But the work doesn't have a story line.

"It's more like an abstract dream, with a flow of events and emotions."

Nor does the ballet intend to be all that literal.

"Sleepwalking connotes so many things, like going through life on rote or on automatic pilot," Rogers said. "Historically, in theater, sleepwalking has always been a device used so that the protagonist can express his real feelings. For instance, someone is married to one person but wants to sleep with someone else. In that case, sleepwalking is OK. It gives permission to get into someone else's bed. So if you get into trouble, say you've been sleepwalking."

* What: The Los Angeles Chamber Ballet.

* When: Friday, July 30, at 8 p.m.

* Where: Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine.

* Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to the Jamboree Road exit and head south. Turn left onto Campus Drive. The theater is on Campus near University Drive, across from the Marketplace mall.

* Wherewithal: $15.

* Where to call: (714) 854-4646.

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