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Ballet British Columbia

"The Faerie Queen"

Presented by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal

Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts
Montréal, Québec

October 25, 2002
By Lena Marie Stuart


The Faerie Queen, created in 2000 for Ballet British Columbia, was the first full-length story ballet John Alleyne choreographed. Not only is he a choreographer, Alleyne is also the Artistic Director of the small chamber company of fourteen dancers, situated in Vancouver, Canada. The Faerie Queen is based on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (adapted by John Murrell), and is accompanied by Purcell's baroque score The Fairy Queen (adapted by Michael Bushnell and Owen Underhill). Alleyne has divided the ballet into twenty-two short sections. The classically based but decidedly contemporary choreography flows smoothly, creating clever transitions from scene to scene. This is not a slapstick or bawdy version of the popular comic tale of romantic rendezvous' gone awry. This version delivers cool sensuality tempered with wry wit.

The star of The Faerie Queen is undoubtedly Emily Molnar, who dances the role of Puck. As the fairy with a penchant for causing chaos, she doles out magic from the love-blossom flower to ensnare humans and fairies alike in amorous entanglements. Molnar is a commanding figure on stage. Curvier and taller (measuring 5'11") than the other female dancers in the company, her radiant characterization of Puck draws the audience in completely. She moves like quicksilver, flowing through Alleyne's choreography with ease, making lightning-fast transitions from dancing upright to slithering across the floor in the very next breath. It is also clear that Molnar is no slouch when airborne.

Acacia Schachte dances the central role of Hermia. She is a rock solid dancer, with exquisite lines and legs for days. Schachte and Jones Henry as Lysander perform some first-class partnering. Former Alberta Ballet dancer, Kristen Dennis, is absolutely captivating. Her portrayal of Helena (who is in love with Demetrius, who is in love with Hermia, who is love with Lysander…) is animated and dynamic – it's hard to take your eyes off of her.

Alleyne has created some very satisfying ensemble choreography for the Woodland Fairies; the trios of men and women execute some particularly vivacious group work and the duets between the three couples are equally enjoyable. Andrea Hodge as Peaseblossom and Justin Peck as Will-o-the-Wisp (who has a wild, curly mop of hair – think American Idol) stand out in the second act as a result of their spirited and well-synched partnering. Dancing for Ballet BC since the early '90's (previously with BalletMet), Hodge has a particularly gorgeous and supple upper body. She does double duty in Faerie Queen, portraying a noble Hippolyta in Act I.

My one gripe with this ballet centers on the two small children who portray Titania's coveted human foundlings. They are cute the first couple of times they appear, but it seems as though they are herded about and on and off the stage exhaustively. Too young to perform any dancing, or even to walk themselves into the wings, they often take the focus away from the rest of the onstage action as they are handed from dancer to dancer.

Although Faerie Queen is based on A Midsummer Night's Dream, the stage looks like a glittering winter landscape. Darren Waterson's scenery consists primarily of a few delicate white branches arcing across the upstage syc like a larger-than-life Japanese bonsai. A few enormous flower blossoms puff out indulgently from the rocks to which the branches are anchored. In the final scene, long strands of hanging blossoms appear to snow petals gently down onto the stage.

Kim Nielsen's costumes look more like fairy gossamer under the stage lights than they do in photographs, but the primarily monochromatic shades of whites and grays downplay the sensual nature of the ballet. Oberon's magnificent long white cape does billow marvelously as he strides across the stage, but the pale leotards worn by the Woodland Fairies seem very restrained for magical creatures, particularly as the cast of human characters are also entirely clad in white.

The only unreserved use of colour shows up in Jean-Phillipe Trépanier's vibrant lighting design (adapted by Robert Sondergaard). The scrim is splashed with bright reds, the stage with brilliant turquoise blues. Dramatic purples represent the nocturnal heavens. On what would be an otherwise neutral stage, luxuriant environments are created.

The Montreal audience was completely enchanted by the magic of The Faerie Queen, with Ballet BC receiving a well-deserved standing ovation for their efforts

 

Please join a discussion of this performance in our forum.

Edited by Malcolm.


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