Grandiose ‘Carmina Burana’ Inspires Seattle Dance | KUOW News and Information

Grandiose ‘Carmina Burana’ Inspires Seattle Dance

Apr 23, 2015

You may not know it by name, but you've likely heard Carl Orff's 1937 cantata, "Carmina Burana."

Chorale groups present it, commercials and films use it in soundtracks, and choreographers make dances to it. 

This spring, two Seattle dance companies will present works set to "Carmina Burana."

In late May, Pacific Northwest Ballet will present choreographer Kent Stowell's version. It's been a regular part of PNB's repertoire since Stowell created it in 1993.

And this month, Spectrum Dance Theater unveils a new "Carmina Burana" choreographed by Spectrum's Artistic Director, Donald Byrd.

Byrd can't remember when he first heard Orff's music; he says it's ubiquitous.

"It's beyond grandiose," Byrd says. "It kind of captures your attention."

Byrd choreographed his first dance to "Carmina" in the mid-1990s for New York City Ballet. He says it was big and theatrical, like the music. This time, he wanted to scale back the bombast.

"I thought there was something intimate about it," he says. "I wanted to explore the underlying themes."

Orff based his cantata on 12th century poetry written by monks.

Byrd's "Carmina" will feature a rarely heard version of Orff's score, set for two pianos, percussion and voices. Despite its smaller scale, Byrd says it's still theatrical; he says that's inherent in the material.

Although he set out to explore what it means to fall from grace, Byrd says this new "Carmina Burana" is joyful.

"That's not something you usually associate with what I do, joy. But it's very joyous."

Spectrum Dance Theater's "Carmina Burana" runs April 23-25 at The Moore Theatre in Seattle.