Luke Xavier plays the title role of Pink.
Photo by Brianne Bland
The brick wall Jimmy Longoria created for Twin Cities Ballet of Minnesota’s world premiere of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’: A Contemporary Rock Ballet is about 18 feet long and 7.5 feet high. Any higher, and the ballet dancers wouldn’t be able to reach the top to put more bricks on. Any longer, and it would have crowded the St. Paul-based, Pink Floyd-tribute rock band, Run Like Hell as they provided live accompaniment onstage for the dancers.
Twin Cities Ballet artistic director Denise Vogt and her husband and associate assistant director Rick Vogt have been contemplating turning “The Wall” into a ballet for years, and from March 1-4 in The Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts, you can see their vision come to life.
Pink Floyd’s album The Wall was conceived as a rock opera in 1977 by the band’s bass player, Roger Waters, after he felt disillusionment from the stadium audiences he and his music were supposed to be connecting with. Over 26 songs, Pink, a protagonist loosely based on Waters and Pink Floyd founder and former band mate Syd Barrett, deals with his father’s death in World War II, the ridicule of his teachers, the indulgence of being a rock star and his crumbling familial and romantic relationships by building a mental wall to fade the world into apathy. The album eventually was adapted as a film in 1982—Rick Vogt is quick to say their production is not related to the movie’s interpretation in any way—and in 2003, The Wall came in as No. 87 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Despite being the band’s second greatest claim to fame (the first being The Dark Side of the Moon), you don’t need to be a Pink Floyd fan to get something out of the ballet. As Rick Vogt put it, he’s never disliked Pink Floyd’s music, but he doesn’t have a collection of their work like he does for The Beatles. Yet he’s still enchanted by The Wall because of its meaning and its execution.
Luke Xavier and the rest of the cast in rehearsal for “The Wall.”
PHOTO BY SARAH LOPEZ DONOVAN
The motifs of societal fear, separation and alienation that Waters wrote about still ring true today, says Rick Vogt, and the way the ideas are musically presented pulls at the listener and captivated the couples’ constantly-choreographing minds.
“Some of the music is so beautiful, but the lyrics are very hard,” says Rick Vogt. “There’s an almost lullaby appeal, but the words are saying, ‘Did you see the frightened ones? Did you hear the falling bombs?’ There’s this lyrical motion of the music with this undercurrent juxtaposition of the darker lyrics. And, of course, when you’re interpreting that into dance, you’re tying them both in.”
While Twin Cities Ballet’s wall is a plain off-white in the style of the album cover, as the dancers move and spin with the gigantic three-by-two-foot bricks, flashes of Longoria’s vivid, impressionistic swirls of color give the audience a hope that not all is lost yet, that the emotion that gives life its meaning is locked away but not gone forever. When Run Like Hell’s last words are sung and the audience holds its breath for Pink’s future, perhaps you’ll try to break down your wall, too.
Tickets are selling quickly to Pink Floyd’s The Wall—they even added a Saturday matinee—so get yours soon.