My thanks to the Baltimore School of the Arts and to Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Library for the chance to be a part of the BSA’s Appalachian Spring Festival this past weekend, and the chance to speak at two branches of the Pratt as a part of Baltimore’s 10th Annual CityLit Festival.
Two great events, but the BSA Festival in particular is one that I will remember for a long time. (No offense to the Pratt intended!) Ballet for Martha may have gotten the school started thinking about Appalachian Spring — an exciting thought for me — but when the students of BSA put their own Appalachian Spring on the stage I felt lucky just to be in the room. First there was the set, recreated by the students from Noguchi’s designs. Then there was a prologue to the dance, excerpts from letters and other writings by Graham, Copland, and Noguchi, stitched together and acted out by students. (That was a bit of work that I worried might fall flat, or worse, I confess to thinking, but it was well done and effective; it helped to put the work in context, suggested the outlines of its creation, and even touched on the question of why a diverse cast of young dancers today might and might not find the piece relevant.) Then from left of the stage came the opening to Copland’s score, and it was remarkable to look over and see such young performers working away on their instruments to such good effect. The music swelled, the young dancers came out, and they did their thing and they did Martha Graham’s thing — not a Lite version of it, either, but fully felt and fully enacted. You could feel the emotions in the house building as the dancers and musicians took us all the way through the piece, and the standing ovation, from a capacity crowd, was as fully and happily delivered as you can imagine. I also had the chance to meet a few of the talented students in the art program and to take a stab at critiquing their work, and that was a pleasure, too. A remarkable school, a remarkable Friday and Saturday for me.
And then on Sunday, after speaking at the Pratt’s Central Library, I headed off to visit friends in the area and succumbed either to food poisoning or a stomach bug or something and spent the next twenty hours sleeping, rising only to be fed small portions of rice, toast, broth, and JELL-O. And then I was over it and caught the train to New York, feeling a bit Lazarus-like the whole ride back. Well, there are ups and downs even to the best weekends.