The Willow Maiden is a ballet with depths reaching into layers of the spirit universe that Einstein foreshadowed with his theory of relativity.
Jinny Campbell as the Willow Maiden and David Ingram as Aldric, the mortal hero, prepare for the premiere of ‘Willow Maiden.’
At the performance on April 25 at Clowes Hall, the storyline and emotional core unfolded clearly through the exemplary interweaving of production elements. Everything was right about this stellar collaboration between storymaker Ellen Denham, dancemaker Stephen Laurent with Norman Walker and Cynthia Pratt, musicmaker Frank Felice and spectaclemakers Karl Kaufmann (scenery), Susan Owens (costumes) and Anthony Bauer (lighting). Salisa, the dryad life force of the willow, ultimately confronts the three fates defining predestination. She makes a choice within the available options that affects her on a personal level while coincidentally shaping the future of an entire universe. Aldric, the mortal hero whose presence stirs the status quo into power struggles, must also choose. His is the first “ah-ha” moment in this richly interwoven tale of love, lust and loving kindness. Humankind’s penchant for “yes or no,” “black or white,” “with me or against me” is vindicated by the gargoyle Bodach, who sends quest seekers retreating in despair. “It’s too hard” is not spoken by Aldric — yet those three words reverberate in the music and movement when steel blanches off stone. Not until Aldric “sees the curve” and accepts Salisa’s help is he able to find another way to accomplish a seemingly unattainable task. Yet, once the shackles are sundered, uncertainty spills into the mix. There are no guaranteed happy endings. The Willow Maiden is a ballet worthy of a long future life. Every one of the dancers was on-target, contributing to the whole, moment by moment. Scene 2 of Act 2 is a glowing case in point, where the stretching of old vocabularies burst into new ways of communicating on all levels. It could have been such a moment when Wagner pushed opera production off the map. You simply had to be there. If you missed The Willow Maiden, you deserve another opportunity with another round of performances. Bravo to all at Butler, bravo to the Indiana Arts Commission for its $1,000 investment in Ellen Denham’s dream, bravo to Motionwear for production sponsorship. The challenge now passes to the whole community to move “art made in Indiana” beyond local media praise.