sealPurdue News

April 7, 2003

Purdue Symphonic Band collaborates in 'Echoes of Indiana' ballet

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Ballet and live music should always be at the top of the "you-can't-have-one-without-the-other" list, but in small communities where resources and money are tight, it almost never happens. That makes "Echoes of Indiana," a first-ever collaboration between Lafayette Ballet Company and the Purdue Symphonic Band, a unique production.

On Saturday (4/12) an original four-section ballet, choreographed by Sandra Peticolas and inspired by themes from local history, takes the stage at Elliott Hall of Music with live music provided by the Purdue Symphonic Band under the direction of Jay Gephart.

The performance is set for 7:30 p.m. Tickets, ranging from $7 to $12 can be purchased at the door or by calling the Purdue box offices at (765) 494-3933.

Peticolas says it is significant that the ballet opens in an era during which Woodland Indians were the primary residents of central Indiana. She says the ballet's sustaining theme is one of "responsibility for the earth that sustains us, and the gift of natural resources and how we have viewed that differently, philosophically speaking, in different eras."

Each of the four sections bears the native name for a different month of the year – such as Blood Moon for July and Green Corn Moon for August – and each is set in a different century. Narration, which will be signed for the hearing impaired, guides the audience through the piece.

Peticolas' Lafayette Ballet Company is mainly known for its annual presentation of "The Nutcracker," but in "Echoes" there are no fairies and no sugar coating.

"There's new physical movements and rhythms for the dancers, and the opportunity to do some completely different things," Peticolas says. "It's a powerful piece and they're feeling it. It's a wonderful chance not to be a puffball and, however it may be interpreted by the audience, the dancers are making a statement."

Through dance, Peticolas offers depictions of Indiana as the Indians knew it and the changes that occurred as the pioneers moved in and settlements were created. Moods range from joyful harvest dances to moments dominated by dissonance suggesting the clash of cultures. In the final section, ghosts from past eras enter and hold dancers representing the 21st century responsible for the state of the world and the environment.

The music that partners with the dance comes from eclectic sources, ranging from themes from the movie "Spartacus" to religious tunes such as William Schuman's "When Jesus Wept." Peticolas says the project began when Gephart handed her a variety of CDs.

"My ideas always come from the music," Peticolas says. "He gave me a stack of 20 CDs. 'Spartacus' was the trigger. That combination of strong tympani and flute just triggered something in me."

Peticolas says she felt a need to root the production in local history.

"Once I was thinking history, I wanted something that would resonate with this community," she says. "I wanted to give the audience something they could respond to. If it doesn't touch them and they don't respond, dance is no longer a communication tool."

Gephart marvels at Peticolas' ability to conceptualize a story about Indiana history using music originally attached to very different scenarios, from ancient Roman times to 20th century pop artists.

"How does Andy Warhol change into sweeping and cleaning the cabin?" Gephart asks. "I don't know, but it's a perfect fit. She's taken music that has nothing to do with Indiana history and has created this story that's incredible."

Describing Peticolas' choreography as "captivating," Gephart sees in it, and in the enthusiastic response of his band members, the rewards of collaborating.

"There's a lot of dancing that's not traditional ballet, and Sandra's dancers are really stretched to explore new styles of dancing, just like we're stretched to explore new styles of music," Gephart says. "The Symphonic Band has been challenged by this literature, more so than ever before."

CONTACT: Kathy Matter, (765) 496-6785,

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: In addition to the public performance of "Echoes of Indiana" on April 12, a shortened version will be presented to fourth-graders from Tippecanoe and surrounding counties at 10 a.m. Wednesday (4/9) in the Elliott Hall of Music as an educational outreach event. Photographers and reporters wanting to cover this performance should contact Kathy Matter, Purdue Bands public relations director, (765) 496-6785,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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