One of the final performances of the Richmond Ballet’s 30th season included the world premiere of Lift the Fallen by choreographer Ma Cong. The ballet is a tribute to Ma's mother following her death from cancer and explores love, loss, healing and community. Virginia Currents producer Catherine Komp has more.
After a morning session warming up, Richmond Ballet dancers prepare to rehearse Ma Cong’s new work, Lift the Fallen. Set to music by Max Richter, the first movement begins with the sound of rain as dancers intertwine with an expansive stream of fabric. As the piece progresses, more dancers emerge from the wings; the pace quickens as couples perform complex lifts, their bodies floating and flying across the stage.
Twelve dancers perform Ma’s Lift the Fallen, a tribute to his mother, who passed away two years ago.
Ma Cong: I think the fallen can be anyone who (is) experiencing difficult times. Those kind of difficult times could be any kind, something can make your heart hurt, something can make you stressed or depressed.
Surmounting those difficult times, through support of family, friends and community, is at the heart of this ballet. The use of fabric helps convey this meaning, and it’s also a part of Ma’s Chinese culture.
Ma: We express fabric as some sort of connection, it could be a connection in the community, it could be a person to another person, it could be an entire community. And also the fabric, I would like to express as some sort of feeling and emotions. When you see fabric cross the stage and flying, you just get this sort of rush, your feelings feel like “wow.” And even though it goes well with music, it makes you to feel like, “Oh wow, that is just beautiful.”
Fernando Sabino: It’s going to be beautiful, it’s very fast.
Sabino: And it is crazy when you see so many people moving at the same time and how fast it is, and you have six couples and all of them dancing...you’re going to see everyone dancing as a group, as six couples or you’re going to see just the girls dancing or just the men dancing, so it’s very exciting. The music is beautiful.
The Brazilian-born Sabino has danced in Ma’s two other works for the Richmond Ballet, including the difficult-to-execute Luminitza. He describes Ma’s choreography as a “perfect marriage.”
Sabino: He’s so excited when he creates something, every single moment is special, and when you have choreographer like that, who makes sure that even if you’re walking you’re working. That’s his technique, that’s how he works and we love that.
While Lift the Fallen was inspired by his mother, Ma wants the audience to make their own connections with the performance. Ma says his goal is to create works that are encouraging and touch the human soul.
Ma: You can make it happen, you can make the world colorful again. So, I think that’s what this work is about; it’s a very, very positive work, nothing focused on negative side at all, it’s all about the love, it’s all about passion, it’s all about (an) exciting future.
Ma: I know that if my mother (could) see this work that I created for helping people, I think my mother would be very proud, very, very happy that my work has meaning and that it can help others.
The award-winning Ma started his own dancing career at age three, joining the Beijing Dance Academy seven years later. He’s currently Resident Choreographer at the Tulsa Ballet and this summer he’ll be working with the National Ballet of China. In 2015, he’ll join the Richmond Ballet when they travel to China to perform his original piece Ershter Vals. For Virginia Currents, this is Catherine Komp, WCVE News.
All photos courtesy of the Richmond Ballet 2014. All rights reserved. Photographer: Sarah Ferguson.