CriticalDance Forum

Alberta Ballet 2013
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Mar 22, 2013 8:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Alberta Ballet 2013

In the Calgary Herald, Jenna Shummoogum reviews the Thursday, March 21, 2013 performance of "Celebrating Mozart."

Calgary Herald

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Mar 23, 2013 12:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2013

Monica Zurowski reviews "Celebrating Mozart" for the Calgary Herald.

Calgary Herald

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Mar 28, 2013 10:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2013

CBC News previews "Balletlujah," inspired by the life and work of k.d. lang, set to open in Edmonton and Calgary in early May 2013.

CBC News

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Apr 05, 2013 8:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2013

In the Montreal Gazette, Victor Swoboda previews "Love Lies Bleeding," April 10-14, 2013 at the Salle Wilfrid Pelletier in Montreal. ... story.html

Author:  ksneds [ Sat Apr 06, 2013 1:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2013

Celebrating Mozart
Alberta Ballet
5 April 2013
Northern Jubilee Theatre

Supposedly April showers bring May flowers. That may be true in warmer climes, but Edmonton, April snow brings the Alberta Ballet. On yet another snowy Friday evening, winter-weary Edmontonians were given a well needed energy boost via a balletic celebration of the music of Mozart. The program, comprised of a brand new ballet by company veteran Yukichi Hattori and a revival of Jean Grand-Maitre's triumphant 'Mozart's Requiem', brought together the dance of Alberta Ballet, the music of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and voices of the Richard Eaton Singers Chorus. The result was, if slightly less than the sum of its parts, a fascinating and entertaining artistic creation.

The evening opened with Yukichi Hattori's "Pomp Without Circumstance", a fanciful frolic through Mozart from Figaro to Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. While the program notes indicate that it's a ballet 'with no interpretation needed', there's a lot more to "Pomp" than the surface humour. The ballet's tongue in cheek humour and allusions to everyone from Balanchine to Grand-Maitre reveal Hattori to be choreographer with a great knowledge of ballet and a clever mind. The curtain rises to what can only be described as Etudes with Alberta attitude - rather than a spotlight focused on a row of perfectly synched pointe-shoe clad legs, we get a row of bewjewelled pointe shoes clad legs, torsos and heads hidden by a curtain. The disembodied legs plie, releve and pirouette with sass - and sometimes one humorously not quite there - and whoops, was that a gold-lame dance belt wearing escapee from the Elton John ballet being yanked back under the curtain!

The legs eventually become a flock of ballerinas who dance for the King, and prance along to Piano Concerto #21. Squired by two servant cavaliers, the ballerina quintet strike poses reminiscent of Balanchine, then morph into an absolutely delightful flock of birdlike creatures complete with coos and clucks. Think the swan corps of Swan Lake infected by the the oddness of Alison in Wonderland's flamingos mixed with some Carnival of the Animals with just a tad bit of bonkers from William Forsythe's "Impressing the Czar". Trapped in this odd flock are a pair twins - Jennifer and Alexandra Gibson; their mirror image pas de deux is clever, but their spoken word section which focus on their individuality seems out of place in the rest of the ballet. But we're not supposed to think, and it's all quite wonderful. If there's any weak link, it's in the brevity of the piece - the 25 minutes race by and one if left feeling that with an additional 10-15 minutes Hattori could tied his collection of wonderful pieces together in a more cohesive ballet. I rarely complain that ballets are too short, but here I want more and more...

The evening's main course was Grand Maitre's attempt at the ballet epic - dancers, music and chorus. The dancers are framed by the music of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in the pit and the voices of the Richard Eaton Singers Chorus, arrayed in a two-tiered shelf-like set along the back of the stage. There are few choral pieces more glorious than Mozart's Requiem, but the ballet - despite its best intentions - misses the emotional core of the music and becomes an uncomfortable mix of comedy and tragedy. For all the lovely dancing, it's Requiem-lite with a touch of "Amadeus".

The flaw in the ballet is perhaps epitomized by the central conceit of the piece - the living statue of Mozart (a poignant Yukichi Hattori) that watches over most of the ballet. As the statue, Yukichi Hattori spend smost of the ballet with his feet buried in a pedestal, conducting, swaying and bending to the music; only later is he is allowed to escape the pedestal to dance and grieve. The problem is that no matter Hattori's talent, can one really take a white-painted living statue in an oversized hat seriously? This kind of quirky humour might be right at home when the tragedy is drugs & Elton John, but it does not work in front of choir singing a requiem mass.

Similarly the trio of dancers representing Death came off - despite another superb performance by Mark Wax - as more Disney than damning with slightly silly skull faces and lightweight choreographic motifs. Their power only came out in when they were dancing in shadow - with faces hidden, we could focus on their long, scything limbs thrown into highlight against the light background.

As if to try and insert some real tragedy into the piece, Grand-Maitre stuck in two blatant illusions to current tragedy. The three modern soldiers, arrayed in a Iwo Jima-like tableau, felt completely out of place and an uncomfortable allusion for an all too real war. More troubling to this New Yorker was the pause in the middle of the piece to watch a video of the Twin Towers crumbling down projected on a scrim. For a ballet choreographed in 2008 for a Canadian company, the use of this evocative imagery feels forced, out of place and inappropriate. If you have to resort to reliving the trauma of 9/11 to inject emotion into a ballet set to a requiem by Mozart, the ballet is sorely lacking.

The strongest sections were the simplest - the corps dressed in skin-colored leotards (ladies) and trunks (men) or in long flowing skirts and twisting through Grand-Maitre's scissoring, linear lifts. Here you could appreciate the beauty and power of the dancer's bodies and the pure movement to the music. Once again, no one could match the cool muscularity of Kelley McKinlay - you can't say it too often: more McKinlay please!! Equally touching was the tableau of life - a pregnant woman, a woman with a child (Hattori's daughter) and an older woman. Each danced with eloquence and elegance until death came to steal them away, leaving only the mother behind, mourning her loss. Equally poignant was the scene of Death dancing with the limp "body" of a young girl, all long hair and dangling limbs. There was a sad elegance and grace to the "movement" of the girl's limbs as her body was swept along in the arms of death. It is these scenes that are worth remembering, and form the core beauty of the ballet.

Overall, there is much to appreciate in this ballet, but Jean-Maitre would be wise to rethink the main premise of the piece and focus on the strengths - the dancing and the emotion. If Mozart need bear witness, let him be in human form and less omnipresent - Hattori is fine enough actor to do more with less.

Kudos to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Peter Dala and to the Richard Eaton Singers Chorus and choral soloists. It was a shame, thought, that the (overmiked?) orchestra tended to overshadow the chorus, particularly in the beginning. If the choir is at the back of the stage, it is vital to ensure that their sound is projected to the audience as well as that of the orchestra.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Apr 06, 2013 10:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2013

Salena Kitteringham reviews the Friday, April 5, 2013 performance of "Celebrating Mozart" for the Edmonton Journal.

Edmonton Journal

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu May 02, 2013 9:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2013

Alberta Ballet opens "Ballelujah!" to music of k.d. lang, Friday and Saturday, May 3-4, 2013 in Edmonton and Wednesday through Saturday, May 8-11, 2013 in Calgary. Stephen Hunt previews the production for the Edmonton Journal.

Edmonton Journal

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri May 03, 2013 7:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2013

Marsha Lederman previews "Balletlujah!" for the Globe and Mail.

Globe and Mail

Author:  ksneds [ Sat May 04, 2013 12:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2013

Alberta Ballet
3 May 2013
Northern Jubilee Auditorium

Jean Grand-Maître has become known for his series of ballets inspired by the songs and lives of well-known musical artists – Joni Mitchell, Elton John, and Sarah McLaughlan. With the world premiere of the fourth such production, Balletlujah!, Grand-Maître and the Alberta Ballet have struck Alberta gold. Inspired by the experiences and music of k.d. lang, the ballet ostensibly follows the love story of two women. More so however, Balletlujah! is a tribute to the spirit of Alberta and Albertans, and the heart and soul of this unique province are stunningly captured through an inspired combination of choreography, dance, set & costume designs, and of course, the music of k.d. lang.

Balletlujah! begins in the prairies of Alberta, just as lang’s story began in the tiny eastern Alberta village of Consort. In keeping with the expansive simplicity of the Alberta landscape, Grand-Maître made an inspired choice to use projections to create a setting for the ballet. To make this vision a reality, he assembled an exceptional team including Adam Larsen (video/projection) and Guillaume Lord (sets), who together have brought Alberta to life on the stage of the Jubilee Auditorium’s video projection. The scenes, collected over weeks of filming across the province – including in Consort – provide a backdrop of wheat fields, hills, mountains and endless Alberta sky. Yet, the scenes form not just a backdrop, for through Larsen’s technologically wizardry and video clips of the dancers, the ballet at times soars from the stage to the screen, and back again.

And of course, there’s the incomparable voice of k.d. lang. No artist better embodies the poignancy, simplicity, purity and fascinating uniqueness of Alberta than lang. She has lived an Albertan story, and her strong, pure voice is in perfect harmony with the soaring images and intense choreography.

The story is that of She, (the ageless child), clearly inspired by lang, who follows love from the small town prairies to the big city, learning about live and love. Her guide and guardian spirit is a crow, a symbol of protection in lang’s Buddhist faith. In her three years with the company, Hayna Gutierrez has danced the lead in many ballets, but with She, Gutierrez has found her breakout role. As the masculine jeans wearing She, Gutierrez seized the stage the moment the curtain rose (Inglewood), her intensity never wavering throughout two hours laced with emotion, intricate woman-woman partnering and long solos.

She meets her First Love (Tara Williamson), have a somewhat awkward introduction at a small town square dance (After the Gold Rush, Big Boned Gal, Crying) – clearly the idea of falling in love with another woman is not something the First Love has considered. That outward expression of same sex love might seem unusual – after all Alberta can be very conservative - but lang herself, when asked about being gay in small town, said that it wasn’t a problem. After all, in a small town, everyone was eccentric – it was in the big city where she first felt out of place.
Balletlujah! then proceeds through a land of long limbed water creatures (Wash Me Clean), and on to the physical expression of the first love (Sexuality). The latter scene was one of the best in the production - Anne-Séguin Poirer’s flesh colored trunks (men) and leotards (women) highlighted the dancers’ taut bodies as they moved through Grand-Maître’s tender, sculptural partnering. It was exquisitely sensual without being ‘in your face’, particularly with the Larsen’s subtle blend of the existing projection with that of two caressing female bodies.

In the second act, the lovers bid farewell to the prairie (Constant Craving, Sing it Loud, Helpless), and move to the big city, here Los Angeles. The mood is at first electric (Sugar Buzz), but things come crashing down when the First Love leaves with another woman (Acquiesce). In dance of stark intensity (Hain’t It Funny) She must find herself again, follow her spirit guide (Hungry Bird) and set out to find love again (Love is Everything).

The movement that drives the story along is combination of pas de deux for the female protagonists, and sweeping group dances. Grand-Maître has always stood out for his ability to move groups of dancers across a stage, and for his ability to meld man and woman into striking images. These talents were seen best in the aforementioned Sexuality, but also in the various ‘prairie people’ sections where angular dancing blended with fluid movement and the projections to bring the sensual earthiness of Alberta to life. Poirer’s airbrushed dresses, slowly transitioning from prairie-wheat yellow to prairie-sky blue, further added to the scenes by perfectly capturing the colors of Alberta. Equally as powerful were the city scenes, Larsen’s almost claustrophobic projections of rain-streaked office towers, perfectly contrasting with the peaceful Alberta images. The opening scenes of the city dwellers were reminiscent of a gaudy, LA version of Robbins’ ‘Glass Pieces’, with every type of city citizen, including one canine, striding across the stage, weaving around each other. A bit of Elton John was evident in the tightly packed, throbbing dancing in the Acquiesce club.

The company dancers looked thoroughly at home with the choreography, both in the prairie and in the city. The rigours of a long Edmonton residency week occasionally peeked through in some slight lapses in coordination and a slight lack of spark in ‘Turn Me Round’. However, it was incredible effort all around, especially considering the last minute tweaking that appears to have occurred – since Wednesday evening’s open rehearsal, there was at least one noticeable change to a projection effect, a major change to one scene and the Child Warrior listed in the last scene didn’t appear (unless I blinked!). While the male contingent often takes the spotlight in Alberta Ballet productions, the female corps held their own in Balletlujah – fitting considering the female-centric nature of the ballet. It is still thought, worth commenting on the incredible ‘stable’ of tall men that Grand-Maître has built up at Alberta Ballet. There’s still no doubt that Kelley McKinlay, whose stage presence makes him stand out in any scene, is the leading man, but Colby Parsons, Mark Wax, Garrett Groat, David Neal and Jaciel Gomez are all very impressive.

Grand-Maître saved his best and lang’s best for last. Balletlujah, of course, could only end with Hallelujah. To the strains of this memorable song, Grand-Maître set a series of powerful vignettes that celebrate life lived and a second chance at love. Yukichi Hattori is a single man, Mariko Kondo & Kelley McKinlay a couple, Alison Dubsky a pregnant woman, and the whole cast the people of Alberta and of Balletlujah.

Finally, the Alberta Ballet has a truly Albertan ballet, one that is sure to capture the hearts of Albertans, and become a treasure in the company’s repertory.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon May 06, 2013 7:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2013

Paula Citron reviews "Balletlujah!" for the Globe and Mail.

Globe and Mail

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Sep 28, 2013 12:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2013

In the Calgary Herald, Jenna Shummoogum reviews Stanton Welch's "Madame Butterfly."

Calgary Herald

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Oct 01, 2013 11:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2013

Alberta Ballet performs "Madame Butterfly" in Edmonton, Friday and Saturday, October 4-5, 2013. Stephen Hunt previews the production for the Edmonton Journal.

Edmonton Journal

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Nov 02, 2013 11:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2013

Alberta Ballet performs "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy," November 14-16, 2013 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver, B.C. A brief preview in the Vancouver Observer.

Vancouver Observer

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Nov 06, 2013 2:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2013

In the Georgia Straight, Janet Smith previews the Vancouver performances of "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy."

Georgia Straight

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2013

Stuart Derdeyn previews "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" at Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Theatre, November 14-16, 2013 for The Province.

The Province

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