© 2023 Boise State Public Radio
NPR in Idaho
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Ballet Idaho's Latest Work Pays Tribute To Shoshone – Bannock Tribes

Boise composer Jim Cockey’s newest work debuts tonight in Nampa. Sacred Land is a tribute to the Shoshone-Bannock tribes. Their history, from before settlers arrived in the Treasure Valley to the forced relocation of the tribes to the Fort Hall Reservation in Eastern Idaho in 1869, unfolds through the music.

The nearly 40 minute arrangement features members of the Boise Philharmonic and the Boise Master Chorale. It will also include a new dance by Ballet Idaho. Alex Ossadnik is the company’s ballet master. He says before he began to choreograph, he picked up on a phrase that’s used in Cockey’s music.  

“And that abstract phrase needless to say was the phrase ‘the Boise River ran red with the blood of our people.’ Immediately I saw the effect.”

A tribal member shared that phrase with Cockey, explaining that her great grandmother would describe the relocation from the land in and around Boise with those words.

Ossadnik says he wants to convey the pain and the powerlessness of the relocation more than 150 years ago to the audience. He does this with 14 dancers. They eventually fall to the stage - a massive white sheet that represents the river covers them. “It’s very sculptural,” explains Ossadnik. “This is a very emotional and dark piece.”

The dancers emerge from under the cloth to end with music that represents the healing of all people.

“It is the injustice of history, I think, and it is the cruelty of human people no matter what” Ossadnik says of his dance and the music of Sacred Land. He explains this piece affected him personally.

Ossadnik grew up in Dresden in formerly Soviet occupied East Germany.  After World War II, Germans who occupied Czechoslovakia during the war were marched by Russian soldiers back to Germany. One of those people, Ossadnik says, was his mother. “And she was ten years old. They walked for a year from Prague to the German border.”  

His family history he says allowed him to put even more emotion into this piece.  Sacred Land, which premiers this weekend, has a universal theme says Ossadnik. “It is a tribute and it’s a reflection and maybe just having the question of what is right and wrong and who belongs to who and what belongs to what, because nothing ever belongs to us,” he says.  

The world premiere of Sacred Land – A Tribute To The Shoshone- Bannock Tribes debuts tonight at 8 p.m. at the NNU-Swayne Auditorium in Nampa.  There is a free public lecture at the Boise Art Museum Saturday at 11 a.m. Sacred Land will be performed at the Morrison Center in Boise Saturday night at 8.

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio