The Beatles conjure many images, such as mop-top haircuts, John Lennon’s glasses, the album cover for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” or the high energy performance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964.
But a Beatles ballet?
Columbia City Ballet may change that a bit for local fans, as they perform “Beatles, the Ballet” on Feb. 2 at the Koger Center.
William Starrett, the acclaimed executive and artistic director of Columbia City Ballet, conceived the ballet, which includes works by multiple choreographers.
The multi-media ballet, which features 40 songs, will follow the story of the Beatles’ careers and examine the cultural and social impact of their music.
Starrett said he was inspired to create the ballet through reflection upon the wide variety of music the Beatles recorded in such a short span of time, and from the fact that many of the issues the Beatles addressed in their work continue to be topics in national conversations.
As director and primary choreographer for the past 28 years, Starrett has created or staged more than 50 works — including 16 original, full-length ballets, 10 classical full-length ballets and 16 original narrated one-act ballets for children — in locations throughout the United States and Europe.
Starrett answered some questions about his latest ballet.
Q. Was there an “a-ha moment” that you thought, “I’m going to create a ballet about the Beatles”?
A. Recognizing that it was the 50th anniversary of the “Abbey Road” album was really my “a-ha moment.” I’d been aware for some time that there seemed to be a resurgence of interest in 60’s fashion and styling, but when I became cognizant of the 50th anniversary of this iconic album, I just knew I had to do a ballet.
Q. Were you a Beatles fan growing up? What are some of your favorite songs?
A. I was indeed a Beatles fan, partly because it was forbidden. My parents, like many other parents at the time, didn’t want me listening to those ‘long-haired hippies.’ Among my favorite songs are “Help,” “I want to Hold Your Hand,” “If Fell,” and “Hard Day’s Night,” among many, many others.
Q. What were the challenges of creating “Beatles, the Ballet”?
A. The biggest challenge undoubtedly has been coordinating 12 choreographers and making sure they all get appropriate rehearsal time.
Q. What are the challenges of performing this ballet?
A. Creating the order so that there is an artistic flow for the audience and arranging it that certain dancers aren’t dancing too many ballets in a row, protecting their stamina. Making certain everyone can make their costume changes.
Q. What is your favorite part of this ballet?
A. How different choreographers interpret the music and seeing how the choreographers use the dancers in different ways, how they bring their own dance vocabulary to the creative process.
Q. Why will ballet fans like this show?
A. Balletomanes will see how ballet can be stretched, how it is so very much more than just pointe work and white tutus. I think our regular audience will be fascinated to see familiar dancers performing different movements and gain an even greater respect for the talents of the professional dancers of Columbia City Ballet.
Q. Why will folks who aren’t big ballet fans like this ballet?
A. First of all the familiarity of the music, its irresistible! I think the novice will see how ballet helps hear the depth of the music — how it can enable us to “see” the music.
Q. What do you imagine Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison would think about their story being performed as a ballet?
A. I really think they would love it. I believe they would be gratified by how seriously we take their work and honored that we respect the music and its messages.
Q. What are three reasons you think folks should come to see this show?
A. The iconic music; The sheer fun factor; who doesn’t need an evening to just enjoy a spectacular production? The relevancy of the messages embodied in the Beatles catalog of work.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about “Beatles, the Ballet”?
A. I want everyone to know that this production is a celebration of the biggest band of all time. It’s going to be a huge choreographic and musical event. Including the cover band, there are in excess of 50 creative artists involved in this process. I also want everyone to know that there is a ’60s-themed cocktail party prior to the evening performance with tickets available through the ballet office. Everyone needs to put on their best ’60s attire and come join us for this incredible, fun experience.
If you go
‘Beatles, the Ballet’
When: Feb. 2
Time: 3 p.m., 7:30 p.m.
Where: Koger Center for the Arts, 1051 Greene St.
Tickets: $20-$52. www.kogercenterforthearts.com.
Notable: There will be a pre-show VIP reception with a ’60s theme at 6 p.m. prior to the performance. An open bar and hors d’oeuvres will be served. William Starrett, executive and artistic director of Columbia City Ballet, will speak on the creation of the ballet. Guests are invited to dress in the “grooviest” 1960s attire. The Columbia Ballet will also perform “Beatles, the Ballet” at Cole Auditorium in Hamlet, N.C. on Feb. 5 and at the Kershaw Fine Arts Center in Camden on Feb. 9.