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Cabrillo Festival commissions a world premiere symphonic ballet by composer Anna Clyne–a centerpiece of Marin Alsop's 25th and final season.

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RIFT: rehearsal excerpt

Posted on September 22, 2016 by Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music

RIFT symphonic ballet was premiered on Friday, August 5, 2016 at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, California. The Cabrillo Festival Orchestra performed music by composer Anna Clyne, conducted by Marin Alsop. Hysterica Dance Co. was choreographed by Kitty McNamee. This is a section of the dress rehearsal.

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RIFT: performance excerpt

Posted on September 22, 2016 by Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music

RIFT symphonic ballet was premiered on Friday, August 5, 2016 at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, California. The Cabrillo Festival Orchestra performed music by composer Anna Clyne, conducted by Marin Alsop. Hysterica Dance Co. was choreographed by Kitty McNamee.

RIFT World Premiere of”haunting beauty”

Posted on September 22, 2016 by Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music

“where art not only reflects society but asks questions of it too” Santa Cruz Sentinel

The world premiere of RIFT symphonic ballet was held on Friday, August 5, 2016 at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. Hysterica Dance Co. were choreographed by Kitty McNamee, with music by composer Anna Clyne performed by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra and led by conductor Marin Alsop. The concert was heard by a full house of over nine hundred attendees, and was lauded by the press:

“Anna Clyne was present for the world premiere of her symphonic ballet RIFT, a festival commission in which Clyne collaborated with choreographer Kitty McNamee. A long riser up front, a catwalk actually, stretched from one side of the orchestra to the other providing the six Hysterica Dancers their stage. Five of them—two men and three women—entered through the audience. In dance they enacted conflict in the modern world that fills the news on a daily basis. Their physical pushing and pulling would remain a presence throughout, but early on a further discordance entered in the form of a third ‘distressed’ male dancer.

Sorting out a new orchestral score at the same time as grasping the choreographic narrative is no small challenge to an audience; neither by itself is easy, together doubles the ante. To help, Clyne and McNamee’s notes describe three parts: Act I is a sad meditation, Dust (of destruction), which builds into chaos as it ‘snaps’ into Act 2, Water, ‘an ethereal world of rituals’ that is interrupted by an outburst of manic energy. Act 3, Space, harkens back to a more serene and orderly time, opposite to the chaos at the start. From this process emerges an extended melody of haunting beauty on the strings whose style is the more familiar from this composer’s past works heard at Cabrillo. Meanwhile, behind the orchestra, projected images seemed to echo the events of the three acts but, gratefully, did not intrude.”  —Performing Arts Monterey Bay


“One of the features of this year’s festival is the collaboration with other media and the Hysterica Dance Company took to the stage for the final work. London-born composer Anna Clyne and choreographer Kitty McNamee had collaborated closely during the conception of this symphonic ballet, RIFT. The chaos and destruction occurring in the world, centered around both climate change and human interaction, was the genesis of the work, focusing on our reaction to these events. The opening sequence, Dust saw the dancers appear from within the audience in a piece that gained momentum before escalating into chaos. Sharp, angular movements characterized anguish and pain at the destruction. The piece was being created as the tragedies of Paris, Brussels and Orlando were occurring.

In her pre-concert address to the audience, Alsop had spoken of her vision 25 years ago of encouraging the audience to arrive at every concert without any preconceptions. Judging by the tumultuous applause which erupted at the end of the performance Alsop has not only accomplished her goal, but has set into motion an event which will continue well into a future where art not only reflects society but asks questions of it too.”   —Santa Cruz Sentinel

Just weeks away…

Posted on July 19, 2016 by Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music

Here at the Cabrillo Festival we’re getting all our ducks in a row in preparation for a huge 2016 season to begin. Production starts next week. Tickets are selling fast. And Opening Night: Power & Devotion, on August 5, at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, will include the long awaited World Premiere of RIFT! Anna Clyne’s score is complete and in the hands of Maestra Marin Alsop, who is busily preparing for her momentous 25th anniversary and farewell season here at the Festival. Our brilliant Festival Orchestra players from all across the country now have their parts, and in Los Angeles choreographer Kitty McNamee continues to work with her beautiful dancers: Katherine Cowgill, Stephanie Kim, Derek Nemechek, Baden Silva, Liz Walker, and Ty Wells. Photographer Nathan Lusk provided these wonderful images from recent rehearsals. We hope new music fans and balletomanes alike will join us. Anna and Kitty totally treasured their experience of creative collaboration–which bodes well for all of us lucky enough to witness the full realization of their first symphonic ballet.

Step by step–the evolution of a ballet

Posted on June 15, 2016 by Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music

We’re posting the second of the artists’ creative work session videos just as tickets are going on sale to the public today. Concurrently, all of the behind-the-scenes production details are being coordinated for the world premiere to take place in just over six weeks–Friday, August 5! Advance ticket sales were record-breaking in anticipation of Marin Alsop’s farewell season, and the excitement about the ballet is palpable. It’s evolved to three movements, fully choreographed, with six dancers, plus projection by Tom Ontiveros! Here’s what the artists have to share:

From composer Anna Clyne: “Kitty and I are in midst of what is an incredibly organic and enjoyable collaborative process. A couple of weeks ago I was in L.A. and attended a rehearsal–it was inspiring to see the choreography that Kitty has created to the music so far, and to meet the beautifully expressive dancers who will be performing the work at the Cabrillo Festival. The process of shaping the work has been very exciting, and has benefited from technology. One day I’ll create a couple of minutes of music, and email that to Kitty, and the next day she is rehearsing with that music with the dancers, and sends me a video of the choreography from which I am then inspired to create the next couple of minutes of the music and so forth. It is an inspiring cycle. It is a very natural and symbiotic process and in working so closely together we are able to work very carefully on timings and coordinating the music with the practicalities of getting dancers on and off stage and transitioning from one duet to another and so forth. From my perspective it has also been very inspiring to know that I am writing for the Cabrillo Festival orchestra and Marin Alsop–imagining them specifically as I am writing the music. We are both very thankful for this wonderful opportunity to create RIFT and we look forward to sharing the work later this Summer.”

And from choreographer Kitty McNamee: “Moving from exploratory rehearsals into setting the piece in sequence has been incredibly energizing for myself and the dancers. I think the most engaging moment of the process (thus far) has been having Anna in the room with us. It is a rare gift to be in rehearsal with a generous artist in the midst of creation.”

A creative collaboration…

Composer Anna Clyne and choreographer Kitty McNamee are immersed in the creative development of RIFT. The generous exchange between the artists has created a fruitful synergy. RIFT is evolving into a three act contemporary ballet with three pairs of dancers. Kitty is enjoying the tension created by the collision of styles among the dancers–who range from refined ballerina to street influenced contemporary. RIFT now includes projected visual imagery as well as lighting design created by Tom Ontiveros. You can learn more about the work and the creative exchange between the artists by watching this video, shot in the artists studios in Los Angeles and Brooklyn. We’ll post another video soon, which will feature footage from rehearsals at Kitty’s studio in Los Angeles, with the incredible dancers who will be premiering their work, along with excerpts from Anna’s original score. Kitty and Anna have been collaborating on various projects since their first meeting at the DUMBO dance festival in 2002 and they have a very natural and organic work process whereby they exchange recordings of the music and video of the choreography as a fluid artistic dialogue so that they can offer direction and inspiration to each other as the work unfolds.


Cabrillo Festival has commissioned London-born composer Anna Clyne to write a major symphonic ballet, a centerpiece of Marin Alsop‘s 25th and final season as Music Director/Conductor. A Grammy-nominated composer of acoustic and electro-acoustic music, Clyne served as Chicago Symphony’s Mead Composer-in-Residence from 2010-15 and has been described as a composer of “uncommon gifts and unusual methods” by The New York Times. She is known for her collaborations with cutting edge choreographers, visual artists, filmmakers, and musicians worldwide.

For her Cabrillo work, Clyne will be working with long-time collaborator, Los Angeles-based choreographer Kitty McNamee, artistic director of Hysterica Dance Company. McNamee was distinguished by Dance Magazine as an artist with “an outsize talent for that most elusive gift, originality.” She has created original ballets for Los Angeles Ballet, National Choreographer’s Initiative, Muse/ique, Chicago Symphony’s MusicNOW and original productions for LA Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and LA Philharmonic, among others.

“RIFT,” a 25-minute work for full orchestra, will draw upon an ancient sound world with morphing sonorities. Clyne explains, “the present will collide with ancient ritualistic folklore through a spiraling narrative that has sudden and unexpected ruptures. The here and now is burst or split open by the Changeling, our female protagonist. Time, space and sound are cleaved apart as she hurtles back to the beginning, to her primal roots.”

The world premierein August 2016 at Santa Cruz Civic Auditoriumwill be performed by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, conducted by Marin Alsop, and will include two movements accompanied by dance, choreographed by McNamee for 4-6 dancers of the Hysterica Dance Company. This project builds upon the Festival’s commitment of support to young artists and female composers; and continues a tradition of producing multi-disciplinary work to broaden the audience for new music. Lighting designer Tom Ontiveros will collaborate with Clyne and McNamee to highlight the dancers and orchestra in the unconventional setting of the Civic Auditorium.

Clyne and McNamee will videotape their creative work sessions, allowing Cabrillo Festival to share the evolution of the piece—first to co-commissioners, and then to the general public via our website. Cabrillo Festival is known for its deep community engagement including open rehearsals, pre- and post-concert talks, composers’ concert introductions, and artist forums. Clyne and McNamee will be in residence during the season, fully participating in the preparation and performance of the work and in free public/community programs.

One of the most meaningful ways the Cabrillo Festival has involved the community in the creative process has been to invite them as commissioners of original works—making them co-creators in building our modern symphonic heritage, strengthening their commitment to the art form, and deepening their experience of the Festival. The Clyne project is a co-commissioning opportunity for as many as eight commissioners. Already seven families are committed! By opening it up to multiple individuals/families, we have lowered the financial commitment and enabled participants who would never otherwise share such a rewarding experience.

Project Media

“Within Her Arms”
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Excerpt of Anna Clyne’s “Within Her Arms” for string ensemble, featuring members of the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop, Mission San Juan Bautista, August 14, 2011
” … this work exerted an emotional pull from its opening gestures that steadily intensified through an exquisite performance … this writing felt vital and new, both mournful and filled with life…[it] brought to mind Barber’s Adagio at times, and it shares with that piece a perfectly sculpted tension, a somber beauty, and an inner radiance.” — SF Classical Voice

“Night Ferry”
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Excerpt from composer Anna Clyne’s “Night Ferry,” performed at Mission San Juan Bautista on August 11, 2013, featuring the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra led by guest conductor Brad Lubman (who replaced Marin Alsop who was sidelined by a hand injury that season).

“Night Ferry is a powerful, compelling work displaying the freshness and individuality of the greatly gifted Clyne…”—Chicago Classical Review

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“colony” for Los Angeles Ballet’s 2012 NEXTwave LA performance is a work by Kitty McNamee of Hysterica Dance Company; choreographed to “Beauty” music composed by Anna Clyne and Colleen Clyne.
“…thanks to McNamee’s opener, a mature and mysterious Euro-style group work called “colony,” the company looks lustrous…. Fresh and original, surely ‘colony’ belongs in L.A. Ballet’s permanent repertory, alongside Balanchine and Lar Lubovitch.”–Jean Lenihan, LA Times

Start and End Dates



Santa Cruz, California

6 updates
Last update on September 22, 2016

Project Created By

Santa Cruz, California
Hailed as a “…new music mecca…” by the New York Times, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music is America’s foremost festival for contemporary symphonic music. Its mission is to provide living composers the means they need to create the future of the art form, give audiences access to the creative process, and provide mentorship and…

In Collaboration With

Hudson Valley, New York
Los Angeles, California
Lighting and Visual Designer
Los Angeles, California


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