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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Winger Ballet Takes Flight

Glam band bassist turns composer.
Ballet composer Kip Winger.
Photo from
I don't usually write about ballet on this blog (with the exception of the odd production of Tannhäuser) but this story struck me as interesting. Hard rocker Kip Winger has written a ballet score--his second.

His work, Conversations with Nijinsky will be recorded at Oberlin College with musicians from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. The work is written for a 62-piece orchestra. Conducting an online campaign through, Mr. Winger was successful in raising the money, exceeding the goal of $35,000.

Mr. Winger is best known for fronting the hard rock quartet that bears his last name. (The group, formed after Mr. Winger had left Alice Cooper's band, was originally called "Sahara," but Alice Cooper suggested they change the name to Winger. A subsequent promotional campaign was built around Mr. Winger's looks.

The redubbed group had chart success in the 1980s with hits like "Madeleine" and "Can't Get Enuff" (sic). They are best remembered for the 1988 hit single "Seventeen" which rose to No. 26 in the Billboard Hot 100.

With flashy videos and an image crafted for MTV, the band was poised for major success. It didn't hurt that they were skilled musicians, with a drummer who had done time in the Dixie Dregs and hotshot guitarist Reb Beach. Also essential: Mr. Winger's twenty years of ballet training, which allowed him to whirl athletically with his bass (to the delight of the band's female fans.) In his teens, Mr. Winger had pursued ballet training, dancing with the Colorado State Ballet Company.

Underage, then under siege: Winger perform "Seventeen."
© 1988 Atlantic/Atco Records, Warner Music Group.

Vaslav Nijinsky. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
As the 1990s began, Winger suffered a backlash. The record industry decided that it couldn't make any more money on hair metal. (It didn't help that the "uncool" kid on Beavis and Butt-head wore a Winger t-shirt.) A second album Winger II: In the Heart of the Young mixed progressive rock in with pop metal. A third, Pull, went largely unnoticed.

In more recent years, Mr. Winger toured as a solo artist, reunited Winger, and studied composition.  He also wrote his first ballet score, the well-received Ghosts.

"Think of me as a theater-renaissance dude with a major focus in composing" was how he put it in an article on the Oberlin website.

Now, the bass-playing balladeer has created Conversations With Nijinsky, a ballet based on the work of  Vaslav Nijinsky the lead dancer in Serge Diaghalev's legendary Parisian company, the Ballet Russe. In a statement on, Mr. Winger said that he wanted to make his work the accompaniment to "the unseen dances of Nijinsky."

A Russian dancer of Polish extraction, Nijinsky was the most famous ballet dancer of the early 20th century, and danced lead parts in works like Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezhade. But he is best remembered as the principal dancer in Igor Stravinsky's first three ballets: The FirebirdPetrouchka and The Rite of Spring. But his career ended in 1929 when the dancer suffered a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He died in 1950 and is buried in Montmartre Cemetery in Paris.

Mr. Winger's work will be recorded and released in the spring of this year. And he shouldn't worry about his critics. When you've been used as a dart-board in a Metallica video, you can handle anything.

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