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  Dancers Lauren Wright, Laurinda Mackay, and Deena Budd in Grand Tarantella in fall 1991. Photographer Don Middleton.

Grand Tarantella
Choreography: Todd Bolender
Music: Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Costume Design: Russ Vogler

Todd Bolender created Grand Tarantella during his tenure with the State Opera in Istanbul, Turkey. Gottschalk’s exuberant melodic score and a tour de force of Classical technique are joined in this work to form an exhilarating and colorful whole.

The music was reconstructed and orchestrated by Hershey Kay in 1957. Many versions for various combinations of piano and strings preceded this one for piano and orchestra on which Gottschalk was working shortly before his death in 1869. Gottschalk, an American composer born in 1829, achieved an international reputation through the charming incorporation of folk music in traditional art compositions. The Italian folk dance, tarantella, from which the spirited movement and music for this work derived, is frequently used in classical ballets, including Petipa’s Swan Lake (act three), Bournonville’s Napoli, and Massine’s La Boutique Fantasque. Tarantella is the most popular of all southern Italian folk dances. Its name stems from the Italian city of Taranto, the citizens of which in the 14th century were said, when bitten by a tarantula spider, to dance until they had perspired enough to rid their bodies of the spider’s poison.

Kansas City Ballet Premiere: October 10, 1991


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