ST. PETERSBURG — When composer A. Paul Johnson was seeking inspiration a few years ago, he went to the Salvador Dali Museum and immersed himself in the art. "I spent a lot of time with these paintings,'' he said. "Dali had a unique way of looking at things. He saw the world underneath the masks that people put on."
The result of Johnson's time in the Dali galleries was Hello, Dali, a ballet score for performances this weekend at the museum by the modern dance troupe Fuzion Dance Artists.
Johnson's score, which is uncompromisingly modernist — as you would only expect for a work inspired by Dali — is pegged to 11 paintings, including The Hallucinogenic Toreador, Nature Morte Vivante (Still Life — Fast Moving), Daddy Long Legs of the Evening and The Ascension of St. Cecilia. Most are on display in the museum.
"This was not an easy score to create,'' said Johnson, who lives in St. Petersburg. "Dali's paintings come from a different place, and I felt like I had to try to think like him just to prick the surface of how his mind worked."
The first time Leymis Bolanos Wilmott, artistic director of the Sarasota-based Fuzion, heard Johnson's musical homage to Dali, she had to stop listening halfway through because it was so off-the-wall. But when she and the dancers in her company put the music together with the paintings it all made sense.
"It has been such an awesome process,'' Wilmott said. "We had the music and we had the paintings to inspire us and give us movement ideas. And we are not holding back. This is Salvador Dali, and we're going to be true to his surreal vision."
Hello, Dali, runs about 45 minutes, with a cast of 16 performers. It will be staged in a small room in the back of the museum, which will open an hour before the performance.
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716. He blogs at Critics Circle at blogs.tampabay.com/arts.