Classic Beatles Album Provides Inspiration For Captivating Dance

A stunning dance homage inspired by a ground-breaking album and created by a world-renowned choreographer is coming to Norwich Theatre Royal as part of a world tour and Theatre Royal’s burgeoning programme of international dance.

Images by Gareth Jones

The Mark Morris Dance Group’s critically-acclaimed Pepperland will be performed on April 23-24 and is an imaginative and innovative tribute to The Beatles ground-breaking album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club.

Morris created it to pay homage to the iconic Merseyside band and their album to kick off a festival in Liverpool to mark the album’s 40th anniversary of release.

Now it is touring the UK for the first time to give audiences in the city a first chance to see Mark Morris’s work.

It is also the first performance to come to the Theatre Royal since it became a member of the Dance Consortium, a group of almost 20 UK theatres who work together to find the cream of international contemporary dance to excite, challenge and inspire their audiences.

As a choreographer, Mark Morris is known for his devotion to music and putting melody at the heart of his work. Since founding his dance company in 1980, he has created almost 150 works and many of which are considered masterpieces.

Pepperland will feature an original score by Ethan Iverson inspired by some of the biggest hits on the Sgt Pepper album including With A Little Help From My Friends, A Day In The Life, When I’m Sixty Four, and Penny Lane. These arrangements will be performed live by the MDMG Music Ensemble, Pepperland’s unique chamber music group.

These will be interspersed with six original pieces also inspired by the album which complement Morris’ profound understanding of different musical styles spanning classical and blues.

Mark Morris chose the music of Sgt Pepper as his inspiration because of the huge impact it had on popular culture. He said: “Beatlemania in the UK, and particularly in the US, was a pivotal event in the turbulent social/political semi-revolution of the late 1960s. As a very young person, I was dazzled and confused by the music. I loved it and I loved The Beatles. Then, over the years, I lost touch and lost interest partly because of overexposure.

“When I was approached to participate in the commemorative project in Liverpool, I re-examined the recording and found so much of interest in it that I eagerly took on the big project of turning these very familiar songs into an evening length music and dance show. Pepperland is the exciting result.”

Composer Ethan Iverson added: “The Pepperland score is a suite of chamber music performed by some of New York City’s finest iconoclasts. Half the piece is arrangements of the songs we all know and half is new danceable pieces responding to the strong undercurrent of classical music present on the original album.”

Stephen Crocker, chief executive of Norwich Theatre Royal, said: “This exciting and innovative piece of dance is one of our on-stage highlights of 2019. As well as paying homage to an iconic band and a key piece of British culture which was known and loved worldwide, it also highlights the innovation of a globally-renowned choreographer and his company.

“We are also delighted to have Pepperland as the first piece that comes to Norwich as part of our new partnership with the Dance Consortium which will mean more of the very best international dance artists and companies come to the city, and we have the opportunity to host some incredibly exciting work.”

See a glimpse of Pepperland below: