Tommie Waheed Evans choreographs the dancers in "Aubade." Credit: Provided
When choreographer Tommie Waheed Evans sat down with the artistic staff of the Philadelphia Orchestra, he had no idea they had already decided to hire him.
“I was thinking this meeting was just, you know, ‘You meet me; I meet you, and I’ll hope that you call me when you make a decision,’” says Evans, after a recent rehearsal. “But then they turned to me and said, ‘Okay, you’re going to be the choreographer.’ And they immediately had me sit in on a rehearsal with the Orchestra, and pure excitement just started pouring out of me when I heard that music.”
This weekend Evans and the orchestra will debut their new collaboration: a modern interpretation of Francis Poulenc’s “Aubade,” starring five female dancers from Philadanco, the world-renowned African-American dance troupe. For Evans – a thoroughly modern choreographer – this marks his first foray into classical music.
“This is a first of a first of a first for me. It’s the first time I’m working on a classical music driven piece. It’s the first time I’m working with live music, and the first time I’m working with an orchestra,” says Evans.
But don’t expect Balanchine-esque neo-classical movements to accompany the Orchestra this weekend. After a few fits and starts, Evans is shooting for a totally unique take on Poulenc’s music. And, while the dance is inspired by the myth of Diana, he doesn’t feel constrained by the idea of narrative ballet either.
“’Aubade’ is really a fun assignment, because almost every time it’s been done, it’s been done a different way,” says Evans. “The whole ‘story ballet’ thing just isn’t me right now. Still, everything I’m brining to it is really starts with the music. I can’t be something I’m not. But what I’m trying to do is marry what I hear in the music and who I am as choreographer. I need to find where those two things meet.”
“Aubade” will be presented as part of "Firebird and Cinderella," with concertos by Stravinsky and Prokofiev led by guest conductor Stephane Deneve.
‘Firebird and Cinderella’ Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, 8 p.m. The Kimmel Center Broad and Locust streets $63-$128, 215-893-1999 www.philorch.org