American composer John Craton has a number of ballets to his name, ranging from the very short ballet segment “The Huluppu Tree” from the opera Inanna to several full-length productions. Craton’s music has been performed by artists and ensembles throughout the United States and Europe and has been compared to the works of Holst and Vaughan Williams in texture and tonality. His ballets have been staged by members of Kat’s Performing Arts Studio of Bedford, Indiana, as well as by members of the Central West Ballet of California. The music to his ballets is very accessible and is designed to be performed by musicians and dancers at both student and professional levels. Below are brief descriptions of each work. More detailed information, including audio excerpts from the scores, can be accessed by clicking on the “Details” button for each title. The ballets are presented below in alphabetical order by title.


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The Ballets


La Boîte à musique (The Music Box)

The first of a trilogy of “goth” ballets called Dans les ténèbres (Into the Darkness), La Boîte à musique incorporates both traditional ballet and elements of ballroom dance. The work is described as a ballet macabre inasmuch as it contains some supernatural drama in the storyline and sets the stage for two other ballets in the trilogy (Le Grenier and Le Cimetière).

Instrumentation: Flute, Oboe/English Horn, Clarinet, Bassoon, Strings (Violins I & II, Violas, Cellos), Harp, Keyboard (Honky-Tonk Piano, Celeste) & Percussion (Timpani, Tubular Bells, Bass Drum, Cymbals)
Duration: Aporoximately 19 minutes



Les Chats du Bagarreau (The Cats of Bagarreau)

Les chats du Bagarreau (The Cats of Bagarreau) has no actual story; we have here merely a gathering of chats voyous (rogue/delinquent cats) in the village of Bagarreau (a play on the word bagarre, which means “to fight,” but toying with the Old French form, bagarot). The action consists primarily of short vignettes of the various characters. The cats are led by gangleader Tom la bombe (Tom the Bomb), and the other principals are Charlotte la chasseuse, Clairette la curieuse, Lucinde la ludique, Pénélope la persane, Adèle l’acrobate, and Véronique la vaniteuse. Véronique is the last to be introduced, and perhaps it is jealousy over her that leads to a fight between rival cat gangs. In the course of the ensuing melee Tom is killed. (It should be noted that Tom’s costume sports a large number 9 on his chest.) His lifeless body is brought forward, then the cats remove the number 9 to reveal a number 8, and Tom is alive again, having used only one of his nine lives. The ballet then concludes as it began with Tom leading his little band of rogue cats through the village streets.

Instrumentation: Piccolo, Flute, Oboe/Cor anglais, Clarinet, Bassoon, 2 Horns, 2 Trumpets, Tenor Trombone, Bass Trombone, Tuba, Strings, Harp, & Percussion
Duration: Approximately 28 minutes



Le Cimetière (The Cemetery)

The third in a trilogy of “goth” ballets called Dans les ténèbres (Into the Darkness), Le Cimetière concludes the storyline begun in La Boîte à musique. The overall theme, though dark in nature, shows that love conquers all, even beyond the grave.

Instrumentation: Strings, flute, oboe/oboe d’amour, clarinet, bassoon, harp, piano/harpsichord/organ, and percussion (timpani, vibraphone, gong, bass drum, drum set, whip).
Duration: Appoximately 27 minutes.



The Dartmoor Pixies

As evening falls, pixies gather and dance a Circle Dance collectively near stage left. When the dance is concluded they assume the “dead swan position” in a circle, representing a fairy ring on the grass. The night becomes darker, and a Will-o’-the-Wisp dances onstage (beginning stage right) followed by two small children. The children have become lost in the woods, and having seen the light from the Will-o’-the-Wisp, they follow it as it gradually leads them inside the fairy ring. Once inside the ring the pixies slowly rise and reveal themselves to the children who are initially frightened but are comforted by the pixies’ care. Soon the pixies commence various tasks as the children watch: To aid their human neighbours, the pixies churn butter, thresh wheat and, when concluded, sweep the area clean in a spritely Broom Dance. As they then begin relaxing from their labours, a Wolf steals onto the stage with the obvious intent of eating the children. But the Wolf’s designs are thwarted when the pixies espy him, and they chase him away. As the children now are visibly frightened by all that they have experienced in this enchanted evening, the Slumber Fairy comes forward and sprinkles slumber dust on them so that they can enjoy a night’s rest. As night progresses, the pixies resume their fairy ring; and when dawn breaks and the children awake, all they see is the fairy ring on the ground. Delighted with the dawn, they now know their way home and depart happily hand-in-hand. After the children leave the pixies reprise much of the Circle Dance to congratulate themselves on a night well spent.

Instrumentation: Strings, harp, and percussion (timpani, glockenspiel, tenor drum, bass drum, bodhran, gong, triangle, slapstick, chimes, tambourine) with a small part for bagpipes with G-D drones.
Duration: Approximately 26 minutes.



Elise of the Kingdom

Elise was not a commissioned ballet but is a story invented and choreographed by Kathy Thompson and set to various musical works of John Craton. The music includes portions selected from his Tango for four guitars and chitaronne, Elementals for flute and piano, Bag o’ Tails for piano solo, and instrumental selections from the opera Vasya Whitefeet.



Emilia

A “ballet within a ballet,” Emilia takes place in a ballet studio and requires only two principals, the rest dancings in group. Instrumentation requires only a solo piano as the score is made to imitate an actual studio rehearsal.

Instrumentation: Solo piano
Duration: Approximately 23 minutes



Le Grenier (The Attic)

The second in a trilogy of “goth” ballets called Dans les ténèbres (Into the Darkness), Le Grenier continues the original story from La Boîte à musiquetwenty years later. The work seems quite popular with young dancers weary of dancing the traditional “flowers and fairies” ballets.

Instrumentation: String Quartet, Keyboard (Piano, Organ, Harpsichord), Strings & Percussion (Timpani, Glockenspiel, Chimes, Triangle, Cymbals, Gongs, Vibraphone, Xylophone, Tambourine, Temple Blocks, Woodblock, Congas, Bass Drum, Drumsticks)
Duration: Approximately 23 minutes



The Huluppu Tree

The ballet sequence from the opera Inanna in which Inanna’s cherished huluppu tree is invaded by a serpent, an anzu bird, and the Dark Lilith. The tale is based on the ancient Sumerian epic of Inanna.

Instrumentation: Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Cornet, Tuba, Solo Violin, Strings
Duration: Approximately 7 minutes



Labyrinth

Labyrinth is a short pas seul that was composed for ballerina Bailey Goode to represent a journey through the mind in which one finds, initially, only uncertainty and illusion, but with ultimate resolution.

Instrumentation: Strings and Percussion (Bass Drum, Snare Drum, Triangle, Gong, Xylophone, Vibraphone)
Duration: Approximatley 3½ minutes



Le mime solitaire (The Lonely Street-Mime)

An alternate storyline that utilizes the score to Pierrot & Pierrette (see below), omitting the pas de deux. The story and choreography for Mime was developed by Kathy Thompson.

Instrumentation: Piano/Celeste, Strings
Duration: Approximately 18 minutes



Mother Goose

After being read bedtime stories by her mother, a young girl goes to sleep and dreams about encounters with various personages she heard about in Mother’s stories. After a series of these encounters, all characters reappear in her bedroom and signal to one another the importance of being quiet so that the young girl may sleep.

Instrumentation: Flute, Sepherd’s Pipe, D-flat Piccolo, Oboe, B-flat Clarinet, Bassoon, 2 Horns in F, C Trumpet, Tenor Trombone, Bass Trombone, Tuba, Harp, Strings (incl. solo violin), and Percussion (Timpani, Bass Drum, Tenor Drum, Snare Drum, Tambourine, Triangle, Gong, Whip, Temple Blocks, Orchestral Bells, Chimes, Xylophone, Vibraphone)
Duration: Approximatley 28 minutes



Nefertiti

An all-female ballet depicting an evening’s entertainment for Nefertiti, her six daughters, and her entourage in ancient Egypt.

Instrumentation: Piccolo, Flute, Alto Flute, Soprano Recorder, Alto Recorder, Tenor Recorder, Oboe, Oboe d’Amore, Bass Oboe, English Horn, Bassoon, Contrabassoon, Bagpipes (with G drone), Tenor Horn, Natural Trumpet (in C), Harp, Sitar, Percussion (Congas, Tambourine, Tenor Drum, Bass Drum, Crotales, Triangle, Gong, Temple Blocks, Glockenspiel, Studio Chimes, Kidi, Sogo, Udu, Caxixi, Iyá)
Duration: Approximatley 27 minutes



Pierrot et Pierrette

A touching romance based on the traditional characters of Pierrot, Pierrette, Harlequin, and Isabel. The score, with only slight modification, also has been used for the ballet Le mime solitaire (see above).

Instrumentation: Piano/Celeste, Strings
Duration: Approximately 23 minutes



La soirée des animaux (The Animals’ Soirée)

Composed with the young ballet student in mind, the ballet takes place in a zoo after hours. Once the zoo closes to the public, the animals begin gathering one by one or in groups in anticipation of a soirée — these include butterflies, a bear, a swan, bats, monkeys, meerkats, reptiles, kangaroos, and a gazelle. The kingly lion is the last to arrive, and he directs that the festivities are to begin. The ballet concludes with a grand waltz of all the animals.

Instrumentation: Full orchestra, with various instrumental combinations
Duration: Approximately 31 minutes



The Tattered Slippers

A ballet based on the Grimm fairy tale commonly known as “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” The work incorporates standard ballet with elements of formal ballroom dance (including even a swing number).

Instrumentation: Flute/Piccolo, Oboe Clarinet, Bassoon, Tenor Saxophone, Harp, Strings & Percussion (Timpani, Snare Drum, Tenor Drum, Bass Drum, Chimes, Triangle, Gong, Cymbals)
Duration: Approximately 38 minutes



Through the Looking-Glass

A ballet based on the Lewis Carroll classic incorporating most of the fantastic characters encountered in the adventure, including the Jabberwock. One of Craton’s most popular ballets to date.

Instrumentation: 2 Flutes (1 doubling on Piccolo), Oboe, Clarinet/Bass Clarinet, Bassoon/Contrabassoon, 2 Horns, Trumpet, Strings & Percussion (Timpani, Orchestral Bells, Triangle, Cymbals, Gong, Marimba, Rattle, Tenor Drums, Tambourine)
Duration: Approximately 31 minutes



Voyageur de temps (Time Traveller)

A short ballet électronique consisting of three brief sequences that summarize a time traveller’s experience journeying through time. The story is very loosely based on the H.G. Wells classic novel. The ballet was composed for Décadanse of France.

Instrumentation: Electronic (recorded) score
Duration: Approximately 8 minutes


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