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Following the Arts Keepers of the Flame: The National Ballet zn 1986-87 Before his death on April 1, 1986, Erik Bruhn planned carefully for his own succession. The National Ballet was to be run by a triumvirate consisting of Lynn Wallis and Valerie Wilder as Associate Artistic Directors and Constantin Patsalas as Resident Choreographer. By the fall of 1986, the company's first season without Bruhn, the triumvirate was already in trouble. Patsalas had left the company, claiming wrongful dismissal, the courts had to rule on the company's right to perform his Concerto for the Elements, and the National was left without an experienced company choreographer. Into the breach stepped David Allan with Masada, commissioned by Bruhn before his death, but put together in a remarkably brief rehearsal period and subjected to unprecedented critical scrutiny. Masada wasn't just Allan's first work for large-scale forces; it became the test piece by which his potential as a company choreographer was judged. The hot-house atmosphere surrounding Masada's premiere made a balanced critical assessment of the work at the time difficult. It needs to be considered on its own merits, with the question of Allan's long-term potential left in abeyance for the time being. Nurturing a choreographer is a long process; his first large work will not necessarily be his best. Masada clearly vindicated Bruhn's initial confidence in Allan as a choreographer for full company forces. Whatever its shortcomings, the work is the product of a strong musical and dramatic imagination. For drama, Allan turned to Josephus' account of the self-immolation of a group of Jewish zealots in the face of Roman conquest. For music, he chose Journal of Canadian Studies Vol. 22, No. 3 (Automne 1987 Fall) Rachmaninov's late score, Symphonic Dances, Opus 45, a lush suite of dances for large orchestra in a post-romantic vein. On the face of it, such a combination seems unlikely, if not ludicrous. It is testimony to Allan's musical sensitivity that the score sounds almost as though it had been commissioned with the current scenario in mind. Allan feels the music as the source of his drama and molds his scenario to exploit its changes in mood, as when the trumpet fanfare towards the end inevitably suggests the threatening approach of Roman legions. The scenario itself is highly explicit, even though this cannot really be considered a story-ballet in the conventional sense. Against a backdrop which vividly suggests the zealot mountain-top fortress and surrounding desert terrain, the


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pp. 127-133
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