"Film noir," according to Webster's Dictionary, is a type of crime movie that features cynical and malevolent characters in a sleazy setting, with an ominous atmosphere and lots of shadows.
So what do we make of "Ballet Noir"?"It's `Pulp Dance,' " according to choreographer Stephen Brown.
"This program was drawn from pulp stories of Raymond Chandler and people like that," he explained, during an after-rehearsal interview. "I was inspired by the structures, the styles, the characters and aesthetics of `noir.' I like the black and whiteness of it. I also liked the stark shadows."
Brown will bring "Ballet Noir" to the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, 138 W. Broadway, June 11 through 14. Performances Thursday through Saturday begin at 8 p.m. There will also be a late-night performance Saturday at 10 p.m. and a Sunday matinee at 4 p.m. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased by calling ArtTix, 355-ARTS (2787).
Brown said he also likes the fact that within the noir theme there are many stories and subplots that manipulate the viewer and build to an ending.
"This program is like that," he said. "It's pretty mixed up and you have to be able to surrender yourself to take a ride on all the twists."
In addition to the dance, which will vary between abstract and narrative, there will be spoken words by local actor Tony Larimer and some interaction with the audience, said Brown. "I'm hoping the program will wash over the audience.
"I want the audience's minds to wander through the program. But, I'm trying to do it in a way so the wandering is directed. I want to take people to a place. But I want them to wander up to it."
Brown began working on this project in December. He called a handful of dancers from the dance community - Repertory Dance Theatre's Lisa DuPaul, Ririe-Woodbury's Natalie Berger, former Ririe-Woodbury dancer Josh Larson, Ballet West's Virginia Hagood and independent dancers Craig Berman and Don Decker.
"The joy of bringing all these people together was how different they all danced," Brown said. "I couldn't choreograph a step without having them do it six different ways. So I gave them a direction and they were able to put their own characteristics and interpretations into it."
With all the preparation and visions that ran through Brown's mind as he put the parts together, he confided that he really doesn't know what "Ballet Noir" will end up looking like as a whole.
"That's what was demanding artistically," he said. "I had to take hours of thoughts and ideas and put them together into a 75-minute package. But working with the dancers and just the style of the show makes it intriguing and different.
"I'm not like some choreographers that can attain their first and only vision. I see something in my head, but as I'm trying to reach it, I find myself getting half-way there or derailed and off in another direction. But I think `Ballet Noir' is the closest I've gotten to any of my visions."