Petipa relied on Tchaikovsky, Balanchine bonded with Stravinsky and Merce Cunningham collaborated with John Cage. When a choreographer cultivates a special partnership with a composer, their collaborations often take on a deeper richness. In the current creative climate, young choreographers have successfully enticed composers to lay out their musical blueprints for both narrative and non-narrative ballets.
Joby Talbot has written highly memorable scores: the whimsical Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, with its fantastical percussion and its riff on the "Rose Adagio," illustrates Christopher Wheeldon's trippy imagination. Similarly, the drama and joy of his Winter's Tale lay the groundwork for Wheeldon's contrast of the night and day of the ballet's moods.
Then there's Chroma—Wayne McGregor's watershed ballet whose hyperphysical juggling of the torso, balance and weight springs to life against the backdrop of Talbot's luminous score. Similarly, McGregor tapped into composer Max Richter's cinematic aesthetic for The Royal Ballet's Infra and Woolf Works.
Nico Muhly, who has worked in genres from film scoring to opera, combines classicism with the sensibilities of pop/rock. Benjamin Millepied mirrored the composer's lush orchestrations through Muhly's original scores for Two Hearts for New York City Ballet and From Here On Out at American Ballet Theatre. Stephen Petronio nabbed Muhly for his stormy I Drink the Air Before Me.
What these composers bring to the stage is the voice of now—melodies and rhythms that speak to the current generation with finesse and forward-looking vision.