CriticalDance Forum

Alberta Ballet 2014-15
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Mar 10, 2014 10:17 am ]
Post subject:  Alberta Ballet 2014-15

Alberta Ballet announces its 2014-15 season.

Canada Newswire

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Sep 23, 2014 11:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2014-15

Alberta Ballet is having difficulty with Canada's Temporary Foreign Workers regulations. Stephen Hunt reports for the Calgary Herald.

Calgary Herald

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Sep 25, 2014 12:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2014-15

In the Calgary Herald, Stephen Hunt previews Ben Stevenson's "Don Quixote," September 25-27, 2014 in Calgary and October 3-4 in Edmonton.

Calgary Herald

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Sep 27, 2014 11:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2014-15

Stephan Bonfield reviews the Thursday, Selptember 25, 2014 performance of Ben Stevenson's "Don Quixote" for the Calgary Herald.

Calgary Herald

Author:  ksneds [ Sat Oct 04, 2014 2:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2014-15

“Don Quixote”
3 October 2014
Alberta Ballet
Northern Jubilee Auditorium

In recent years, the Alberta Ballet has been acquiring a number of full-length classical productions, including Swan Lake and Giselle, to a mostly high degree of success. The company’s latest acquisition, ‘Don Quixote’, made its Edmonton debut on a brisk fall evening to an enthusiastic audience. Originally created for the Houston Ballet in 1995, presumably to showcase a young Cuban phenom by the name of Carlos Acosta, Ben Stevenson’s production is a rollicking adaptation of the original Petipa/Gorsky ‘Don Quixote’. Nearly twenty years later, the production has found a wonderful new home in the Alberta Ballet, and two excellent new Cuban leads in Hayna Guiterrez and Jaciel Gomez.

Despite the title, the ballet ‘Don Quixote’ focuses primarily on the comic romantic travails of the young Spanish lovers Basilio and Kitri, with Cervantes’ Don playing a relatively minor role in the plot. The production begins with a glimpse into the dreams and desires of the Don, played on Friday with comic tenderness by company director Jean Grand-Maître in his return to the stage after a nearly 20-year absence. Stevenson chooses to make both the Don and his sidekick Sancho Panza (Ian Buchanan) heavily comic characters. Certainly there is very little to take seriously in any ‘Don Quixote’, but this reviewer missed the gentle pathos of productions that take a more tragic-comic approach the Don. There is something sad about a man chasing an obtainable dream woman, but who yet helps another couple make their romance a reality.

In the hands of the Alberta Ballet, the production was more about energetic, good-natured fun, rather than flashy balletic pyrotechnics. Thomas Boyd’s sets provided a suitable backdrop for the dance without overcrowding the stage, but Judanna Lynn’s costumes tended towards relatively muted colors in styles that were more generic than strongly Spanish. Kitri’s pinkish wedding tutu, nearly the same color as the corps dresses, in particular called out for a more vivid red hue.

As Basilio, Jaciel Gomez seemed to go from strength to strength. Since joining the Alberta Ballet nearly three years ago, he has continued to develop into an endearing character dancer with technique to burn. He is a lanky dancer, with exquisite control in his pirouettes if not the fastest or most spectacular ménage. What he lacks in breathtaking hang time or snap, he makes up in beautifully extended legs and attention to detail. Where Gomez truly excelled, though, was in bringing to life the youthful cheekiness of Basilio. In Hayna Guiterrez, the company could not have found a more perfect Kitri. There is nothing Guiterrez seems incapable of doing - she excelled in the fiery pas de deux, the acting and the very delicate solos of the Enchantment Grotto. Among the highlights was her Act II solo with a series of crisp, yet delicate footwork, and her all-out series of single, double and a triple fouettes at the apex of the Act III wedding pas de deux. Their partnership seems relaxed, with Gomez providing solid support for Guiterrez in the preparations for her balances. The partnering pyrotechnics seems scaled down from some productions (no one-handed ‘butt lifts’), but they elicited gasps for Guiterrez’s fearless leaps into the flying fish dives. One fish dive appeared very under-rotated, but Gomez managed to salvage the lift without any ill consequences.

It seems a shame that Yukichi Hattori was relegated to relatively minor or unsatisfying (Amor Man., not one of the productions highlights...) roles, but it pleasing that the company kept to type in the casting of Espada. Senior company dancer Kelly McKinlay, who was double cast as the Gypsy Chief, follows in the footsteps of experienced taller male dancers who have played the role including American Ballet Theatre’s Marcelo Gomes and the Royal Danish Ballet’s Mads Blangstrup. It was disappointing that the role has been watered down, but McKinlay pulled off Espada’s swagger to a T. Oddly the program does not give his female counterpart a name (she is usually Mercedes), but Alison Dubsky deserves a mention for her performance.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly, given the departure of several company stalwarts in the last couple years and influx of new talent, the male corps seemed weaker than the female corps. While there were strong sections in all three acts, steps tended to be rushed or even sketched out during the faster sections. The female corps, however, was gorgeous in the Enchantment Grotto scene – the results of excellent and extensive coaching were clearly evident in the uniformity and elegance of hand positions, leg height and musical phrasing. As a whole, the corps was strongest in the Gypsy dance, but delightfully enthusiastic in the final scene.

Kudos also the wonderfully trained horse in Act 1 and 3 who actually seemed disappointed to leave the stage, and to Blair Puente’s foppish Gamache. If anything could be put on a ‘Don Quixote’ wish list, it would be funding for a live orchestra. If there is any ballet that calls for on the spot improvisation or pushing the limits, it’s Don Q and the dancers can’t do that when they are bound by an unchangeable taped soundtrack.

As a note, the Edmonton casting, albeit only for two performances, is a bit worrying in the number of roles covered only by a single dancer and the number of double casting within the performance. For the run, there seems only to be on Kitri and two Basilios, with the company relying on an 18-year old guest artist to cover one performance of Basilio in Calgary. And the Basilios cover the role of Lorenzo in the other performances, as well as Espada and the Gypsy Chief being played by one dancer in all performances, and number of roles covered by non (current dancers). This does not appear to reflect well on the company’s ability to cast technically challenging roles, especially on the female side. While there certainly must be covers for all roles, it felt like one or two poorly timed injuries could cause serious issues for the production. It is wonderful to get excellent new productions, but they need to be within comfortable limits for the company – and the company needs to focus on developing new principal level talent (as a note Mariko Kondo is absent from the casting, so one wonders if the injury that kept her from Madame Butterfly is still an issue).

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Oct 25, 2014 10:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2014-15

Stephan Bonfield reviews the Wednesday, October 22, 2014 dress rehearsal of David Nixon's "The Three Musketeers" at Calgary's Jubilee Auditorium for the Calgary Herald.

Calgary Herald

Author:  ksneds [ Sat Nov 08, 2014 1:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2014-15

“The Three Musketeers”
7 November 2014
Northern Jubilee Auditorium
Edmonton, AB

‘All for one, one for all’ is among the most famous fictional mottos of all time. On Friday evening, the characters who so proudly proclaimed it came alive in a swashbuckling new (to) Alberta Ballet production, “The 3 Musketeers”. Acquired from the Northern Ballet, where it premiered in 2006, the ballet is one of David Nixon’s most intriguing creations. “The 3 Musketeers” was created to suit the very theatre-heavy style of the Northern Ballet (then the Northern Ballet Theatre), but in the hands of the Alberta Ballet, the ballet has been given a new life. Strong dance-acting underpinned by the glorious Edmonton Symphony Orchestra made for one of the best nights of the 2014-15 ballet season.

One of the greatest challenges involved with turning “The 3 Musketeers” into a ballet is the convoluted storyline. Nixon has simplified and sanitized the story (in the book D’Artagnan seduces both mother and daughter, and Constance ends up dying), but it still isn’t a story that is easily understood without careful study of the synopsis. When I first saw Northern Ballet perform the ballet nearly 7 years ago, the ballet seemed to trip over the storyline; the quality of the dance was not strong enough to make it work. With the accomplished dancers of the Alberta Ballet at the helm, the dance sailed through the story, carrying the audience along in a colorful spectacle. Even if you didn’t get every detail, it was easy to tell the bad guys from the good guys and appreciate the love and humour.

The ballet begins with the three musketeers as they are introduced to the soon-to-be fourth musketeer, D’Artagnan. The latter provides evidence of his mettle when the four become involved in an adventure involving love, scandal, treachery and one priceless necklace. We are in Paris where Queen Anne has been escaping her loveless marriage with the foppish Louis XIII by having an affair with the Duke of Buckingham. When the Queen re-gifts her anniversary gift, an elaborate necklace, to the Duke, the scheming Cardinal Richelieu and the Count de Rochefort – who have been intercepting the Queen’s correspondence, see their chance to gain power. They propose a masquerade ball during which the Queen can show off her necklace. What ensues is a rollicking adventure to recover the necklace, during which D’Artagnan finds love, adventure and his life’s calling as a musketeer.

The ballet takes in place in no fewer than 12 locations, with the action nearly seamlessly transitioning through the ingenuity of Charles Cusick-Smith’s sets. The core set is that of a wood-paneled room, which through a series of scrims, rotating panels, doors and painted backdrops becomes a ballroom, a bedchamber, a Paris street, the Port of Calais and Mme Bonancieux’s House, among others. David Nixon designed his own costumes; with the exception of D’Artagnan’s horribly cut pants, all were superb. Unlike many designers, Nixon has the knack for creating costumes that are lush without overwhelming the dancers, and using color to accent the story. The crimson of Milady’s cloak matches that of Richelieu’s robes, leaving no doubt as her position among the ‘bad guys’. The musketeers are dressed in similar, but more muted colors, with the young D’Artagnan and his love Constance is subtly lighter, paler, ‘purer’ shades. But without a doubt, the piece de resistance were birdlike the masquerade costumes. While the women wear headpieces with soaring plumes, the men’s are draped in brightly colored gauzy fabric strips. These strips swirl with the motion of the dance, both enhancing and elongating the movement and filling in the gaps on the stage. The movement also seems to last longer as the gauze hovers in the area for a few moments after the dancers stop.

Though the musketeers are undoubtedly the stars of the story, the ballet is a group effort with the corps being as important as the soloists in telling the story. While he provides plenty of soaring leaps for his male leads, Nixon’s choreography is perhaps most striking in the large set pieces. Seeing this ballet for a second time, one is struck by his ability to move beyond simple in-synch movement for the corps to the use of mirroring and sequential movement.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the dance of the ladies who accompany the king when he presents the necklace to his queen. These ladies are attired in dresses that skim the stage as they are fully en pointe, and stiffly pleated capes that expand and retract like giant Spanish fans. Their dance is an intricate juxtaposition of crisp, jabbing en pointe steps, and patterns formed by the opening and closing of their fan-like capes.

Despite the challenges of the choreography, the Alberta Ballet corps was in top form. If ‘Don Quixote’ looked slightly out of place on the company, ‘The 3 Musketeers’ fits Alberta Ballet to a “T”. This is a company that while not strong on bravura dancing, can meet the challenges of sophisticated choreography, adding humor without teetering into slapstick and telling a story through dance.

As D’Artagnan and Constance, Kelley McKinlay and Hayna Guiterrez demonstrated yet again that they are the starts of the company. Nixon fills his pas de deux with complicated lifts and demands extreme flexibility of his ballerinas. McKinlay and Guiterrez gave a clinic in how to dance a pas deux, soaring through a high lift with her balanced in a sideways position on his fully lifted arm and drawing gaps when he tossed her up into a high double (single?) turn before catching her without the slightest hesitation. It was the wow moment of the season – nothing in “Don Quixote” even came close. Nicolas Pelletier, as the Duke of Buckingham, also revealed solid partnering skills in the intricate pas de deux with Reilley Bell, as Queen Anne. With McKinlay slowly moving towards the later years of his career, the company needs to develop more male dancers and Pelletier’s performance puts him high on the list of potential leading men. His performance lacks the fluidity and emotional depth of McKinlay’s, but it is highly promising. Yukichi Hattori, Garrett Groat and Jaciel Gomez rounded out the quartet of musketeers, providing comic relief and their usual high standard of dancing. Hattori, in particular, is a master of comic timing mixed with effortless bravura dancing. What he lacks in height, he makes up for in jump! As Milady, Skye Balfour-Ducharme continued to display the talents that have made her the leading female dance-actor in the company. With a repertoire heavy in dramatic ballets, she has staked her claim to a very valuable role within the company. Much humor mixed with powerful dancing came from Alison Dubsky as Mme Bonancieux. Kudos also to new company dancer Leiland Charles, who as Cinq-Mars, had his first chance in a solo role. Though very much a work in progress, he impressed with his technique and presence on the stage.

Finally, the evening was made more special by the use of live music, played gloriously by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Peter Dala. The lack of live accompaniment was very much felt in “Don Quixote”, and made a world of difference for “The 3 Musketeers”. Prior to the curtain, company artistic director Jean Grand-Maître announced the formation of an acquisition fund, and one hopes that special emphasis is put on ensuring that live music is available whenever possible. Live music is crucial – bringing new productions only to dance them to stilted taped scores is no way to develop a company.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Dec 10, 2014 1:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2014-15

Broadway World reports that Alberta Ballet will perform "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy," featuring the music of Sarah McLachlan, January 24, 2015 at UCLA's Royce Hall in Los Angeles.

Broadway World

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun Feb 01, 2015 8:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2014-15

In Culturemap Houston, Theodore Bale reviews the Houston performance of "Love Lives Bleeding."

Culturemap Houston

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2014-15

In the Edmonton Journal, Salena Kitteringham previews Yukichi Hattori's "Carmen" and Jiri Kylian's "Forgotten Land," March 20-21, 2015 at the Northern Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton.

Edmonton Journal

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Mar 23, 2015 12:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2014-15

For the Edmonton Journal, Salena Kitteringham reviews the Friday, March 20, 2015 performance of "Carmen" and "Forgotten Land" at the Northern Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton.

Edmonton Journal

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Mar 25, 2015 12:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2014-15

Paula Citron talks to choreographer Yukichi Hattori about "Carmen" for The Globe and Mail.

The Globe and Mail

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Mar 28, 2015 11:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Alberta Ballet 2014-15

Stephan Bonfield reviews the March 25, 2015 performance of "Forgotten Land" and "Carmen" at Calgary's Jubilee Auditorium for the Calgary Herald.

Calgary Herald

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