Dance critics' picks: Ballet takes many forms in boffo dance season

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Critics’ picks

This past winter has seen a busier and more varied dance roster than usual. Don’t expect things to slow down come spring. With two major programs by Ballet British Columbia, two big-name visiting ballet companies, and an entire festival going on, you’ll have to choreograph your own moves just to catch everything.

Vancouver International Dance Festival
(Friday [March 2] to 11 at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts and the Roundhouse Community Centre)

Concentrated into a shorter time this year, the fest spans artists from as far afield as Japan and San Francisco, with a mix of ballet and butoh.
The Draw: San Fran’s Alonzo King LINES Ballet is the big ticket (Friday and Saturday [March 2 and 3] at the Centre), with a program set to lush Sephardic and Persian-inflected music. On the butoh end, check out the same city’s inkBoat, whose Line Between (Tuesday and Wednesday [March 6 and 7] at the Roundhouse) is a mysterious exploration of dreams within a surreal set.
Target Audience: People who are ready to face the realms of ballet’s beauty and butoh’s grotesquery.

Ballet B.C.
(Next Thursday to Saturday [March 8 to 10] and May 10 to 12 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre)

Our resident company continues to push the form with two highly recommendable programs this spring. First up, Walking Mad and Other Works features a mix of pieces by Swede Johan Inger, New York sensation Aszure Barton, and the company’s own artistic director Emily Molnar. Then, in May, resident choreographer José Navas, of Montreal, mounts Bliss, the troupe’s first full-length ballet since it rebuilt itself in 2009.
The Draw: Barton and Inger are huge names with the guaranteed goods, but local audiences who saw the breathless The bliss that from their limbs all movement takes—which Navas debuted last season and on which he’s basing the new work—know the May show should end the season with a bang.
Target Audience: Sophisticates who hunger for virtuosity as much as for their fine cabernet.

Elles
(At the Cultch Historic Theatre from March 13 to 17)

Les Productions Figlio’s Serge Bennathan won the most recent Rio Tinto Alcan Award Performing Arts Award, and the result is Elles, his exploration of female strength and passion. He’s gathered women from around the country to perform the work—Ali Robson, Alison Denham, Carolyn Woods, Darcy McMurray, Erin Drumheller, Linnea Swan, Susan Elliott, and Val Calam.
The Draw: The $60,000 award allows the former head of Toronto’s DanceMakers to focus all his creative power on a larger-scale work.
Target Audience: Women and the guys who love them.

Fragments—Vol. I (March 14 to 17 at the Firehall Arts Centre)
Veteran Montreal choreographer Sylvain Emard creates four separate worlds based on the vulnerabilities of his dancers. In one, a woman sits on a chair consumed by grief; in another, two men perform a duet where tension churns beneath camaraderie. NOW Magazine said: “If you want to see brilliant contemporary dance, a good place to start is this new piece by Montreal-based Emard.”
The Draw: Four works for the price of one.
Target Audience: Dance fans with a taste for deep emotion and detailed movement.

Blush (March 23 and 24 at the Vancouver Playhouse)
Picture dancers caked in white paint that slowly rubs off to reveal their flesh over the course of a show. For its final production of the season, DanceHouse brings New York’s Gallim Dance to town, with its physically punishing Blush in tow. The soundtrack ranges from Frédéric Chopin to Wolf Parade, and mashes styles from ballet to butoh.
The Draw: Artistic director Andrea Miller comes out of Ohad Naharin’s acclaimed Batsheva Dance, which wowed DanceHouse fans here two seasons ago.
Target Audience: iPod addicts whose favourite playlists span everything from classical to electro-punk.

Svengali (April 20 to 22 at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts)
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet brings its dark and richly staged new work to town. Supposedly inspired by a film treatment by director Guy Maddin, and choreographed by Mark Godden, it tells the story of Svengali, who breaks free of his repressive mother’s ballet studio and starts to manipulate the young dancer Trilby. The Winnipeg Free Press called it “magnetic” and “highly theatrical”.
The Draw: A Weimar-era setting, adult-content warnings, a half-million-dollar budget, a creative credit for Maddin, and a ballet by Godden (who crafted Dracula): really, what’s not to like?
Target Audience: Those who like their story ballets painted a deep shade of black.

IZM (April 24 to 29 at the Cultch Historic Theatre)
Hella cool: choreographer Crazy Smooth has gathered 10 of Canada’s top hip-hop dancers for one explosive show.
The Draw: Urban forms are working their way into the highest levels of contemporary dance; here’s a rare chance to see the real deal on a real stage. The
Target Audience: B-boys and -girls and those who covet their mad skillz.

A Simple Way (June 7 to 9 at the Scotiabank Dance Centre)
Kokoro Dance artistic director Barbara Bourget creates a new solo inspired by Japanese concepts of beauty and the process of aging.
The Draw: The chance to see Bourget distill 50 years of dance experience into a work.
Target Audience: Those who fight the passage of time and those who surrender to it.

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