Frazelle: A Wonderful Journey

“It’s been a wonderful journey.” And so, choreographer Gary Taylor offers enthusiastic insight into his new ballet “From Appalachia,” which is set to nine excerpts from Kenneth Frazelle’s Appalachian Songbooks 1 and 2. The ballet — presented by the Piedmont Opera — will be premiered by the Winston-Salem Festival Ballet as part of the “Echos from Carolina” program. The production will be live-streamed from the Stevens Center (University of North Carolina School of the Arts) on October 16. Performing musicians include soprano Jodi Burns and tenor James Allbritten, accompanied by pianist P. G. Hazard. A subsequent live-stream takes place on October 18.

Gary Taylor; photo courtesy:

Taylor continues. “Kenneth’s work revealed an intriguing insight into the Appalachian folklore. The ballads became an outline for me to start creating complete stories before I could set the choreography, and to be able to give a full character analysis to dancers so they could understand their motivation in each piece. During this process, I thought of the description, American “Grimm” (on relationships). Then wonderful rich stories leapt from the page and onto the dance floor — tales of sadness and yearning, joy, lighthearted moments, and dark stories that felt as if their true message whispered in an inner voice too dark to say out loud. I loved working with these rich reflections…and I am honored to have the opportunity to interpret the works into dance.”

“I’m thrilled,” notes Frazelle, “about Piedmont Opera’s collaboration with the Winston-Salem Festival Ballet on “From Appalachia.” Never did I dream that my folk-song settings would make it into the theater as fully choreographed works. It’s as though the stories come alive through movement, lighting, sets, and singers. The timeless messages of lost love, hardship, and human connection are especially poignant during these challenging months. It’s beautiful to be collaborating again, even while masked and safe distanced!”