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BWW Preview: Choreographer Mary Barton and Beethoven Triumph in ARB's MASTERS OF DANCE AND MUSIC!

From the time she was a child, American Repertory Ballet resident choreographer Mary Barton had a distinct impression of Ludwig van Beethoven. He was, she said, "... an incredible composer but a cranky deaf guy who wasn't appealing to anyone."

But when the composer's Symphony No. 7 became the foundation for her next project, a performance premiering this Friday, April 8 at McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ as part of Masters of Dance & Music, Barton said she did two things.

"I listened to the music and I listened and I listened and I listened."

And she read The Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter Beethoven wrote to his brothers, Carl and Johann, at Heiligenstadt in Germany on October 6, 1802.

"There are a lot of beautiful quotes about virtue and suffering and how art was his saving grace," Barton said of what many consider Beethoven's early will, written while seeking a cure for his deafness.

One quote from that testament became her inspiration: But what humiliation when anyone beside me heard a flute in the distance while I heard nothing or when others heard a Shepard singing and I still heard nothing.

With that, Barton's piece began to take form, with the title A Shepherd Singing (And I Still Heard Nothing). She approached the majestic music by exploring the composer's personal struggle with deafness and his art. Company member Michael Landez portrays Beethoven, three couples embody notes, and Monica Giragosian plays loss of hearing, which Barton described as a demanding lover. There are also Art and Patience, Beethoven's Immortal Beloved, and Unseen and Unheard.

The dance begins with Beethoven's death.

"There is a tale," Barton said, "that on his death bed he raised his fist and then fell back-ah, ha, I triumphed!" From there, the piece is not chronological but rather a glimpse into the man and his psyche. With the Princeton University Orchestra playing live at the performance, under the direction of Maestro Michael Pratt, the piece moves through the symphony's 1st, 2nd and 4th movements.

After spending more than a year working on the project, Barton says she feels a connection with Beethoven as an artist.

"I love him," she said.

American Repertory Ballet, led by Artistic Director Douglas Martin, will present Masters of Dance & Music on Friday, April 8, 2016 at 8 p.m. at McCarter Theatre in downtown Princeton, N.J. The program will feature the world premiere of Mary Barton's A Shepherd Singing (And I Still Heard Nothing), modern dance pioneer José Limón's There is a Time and Kirk Peterson's Glazunov Variations.

Masters of Dance & Music

Friday, April 8, 2016 at 8 p.m.

McCarter Theatre

91 University Place, Princeton, N.J.

Tickets: $20, $35, $44, $54; $15 student tickets are available with a valid I.D.

(609) 258-2787

For more information about American Repertory Ballet please visit:

Photo credit: Leighton Chen

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