On July 31, Amherst Ballet released the long awaited online performance, “The Butterfly Effect,” set to the music by Max Righter, “Spring,” in Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi–The Four Seasons.
Madeleine Bonn, Artistic Director of Amherst Ballet and the producer of the performance, first came up with the idea of creating an online virtual show comprised of Zoom windows in March, when it was becoming a possibility that the stay-at-home order might not be lifted before May 30, the planned date for AB’s spring show, “Forces of Nature.” She wanted to make sure that the students would not be deprived of a chance to participate in a performance. At the time, she had been teaching ballet classes through Zoom for a week and were recognizing the artistic potential offered by the grid pattern of Zoom windows. She was also inspired by two video montages by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and San Francisco Ballet. As Madeleine started choreographing for the show, she asked Reiko Sono to help with the technological aspect.
Reiko was fascinated by Madeleine’s idea. Realizing that the choreographic chain letter of San Francisco Ballet would work better for AB but that the transition might be hard to establish, she suggested using a prop so that it would be the focal point when switching from one dancer to another. She further came up with the idea to impose an animation on the prop to help tell a story. And the story to tell was that of a butterfly. Madeleine states, “Inspired by the shelter-in-place ordinance, the piece is intended to represent little butterflies coming out of their chrysalises and testing out their wings after many months trapped inside.” One of these butterflies then causes a chain reaction that ends with a flower.
To create this piece, not only dancers but their parents had to work hard, setting up a small stage in front of a white background, getting the right-size ball, downloading the music, and assisting with choreography. With their help, each dancer did a wonderful job of dancing Madeleine’s choreography in the first and last parts of the piece and making their own for the middle part. Amherst Ballet hopes that, while not quite the same as being a part of a production on stage, the experience provided them with a sense of creative collaboration at this time of separation.