Although he was known as "the quiet Beatle," George Harrison left a legacy of songs resonating with introspection and spirituality. New York City's American Ballet Theatre will pair that music with movement in "Within You Without You: A Tribute to George Harrison," coming to Playhouse Square Center's State Theatre March 11 through 14.
"George's journey through life is shared through his songs," reflects ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie. "You can see the hubris of a young guy who has money coming in. Then, there's [his experiences with] the drug culture, followed by an expression of ?What's next?' Then, there's the ?Wow! My inner soul is what's next.'
"He felt the influence of Indian music and [his work] became all about the basics. He was concerned not with the result, but with the source."
Like many baby boomers who grew up listening to the Fab Four, McKenzie, 50, was moved by Harrison's death in November 2001. He began conceptualizing the work moments after he heard the news.
�A colleague and I were bemoaning the fact that Harrison's passing was the end of an era, and his death made you look at your own mortality. Of course, the next logical question was whether a tribute in dance had ever been done. A light bulb went on."
McKenzie culled the talents of four choreographers whose work he admires and consulted with Harrison's widow, Olivia, on the selection of the half-dozen musical numbers that would serve as the soundtrack. From "Something," a male-female duet in which the woman never moves, to the soulful-yet-sensual "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" to the evocative "My Sweet Lord," the ballet is a homily to Harrison's artistry during and after Beatlemania.
"I envision the audience to be a clash of cultures," McKenzie says. "There'll be those old enough to say, ?God, when this [music] first came out, I thought it was noise.' Then, there'll be people from [my] generation who'll know every breath and every word and will have to stop themselves from singing along. And there will be the new rockers who say, 'This is ballet?'
tMy goal is to have all of them take away an understanding of who George Harrison was and the gamut of his talent."
Also on the program are excerpts from "Raymonda," a 19th-century love story, and "Pillar of Fire," the tale of three sisters whose relationships with one another are fueled by anger and jealousy.
Show times are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.