Body suits and club beats: Ballet BC's Program 3 shows off a troupe in top physical form

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      A Ballet BC production. At the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Thursday, May 10. Continues until May 12

      Skintight body suits, scissoring legs, and rippling abs and rhomboids: these are some of the overriding impressions from Ballet BC’s season-closing program this week.

      The troupe, just back from a smash U.K. and German tour, is as physically honed as it’s ever been—and that could not be more evident from the two muscular feats that bookend this triple bill.

      The superhuman precision that goes into opener Cayetano Soto’s dark and driving Beginning After is on even fuller display this time around than when the piece debuted in 2016. Dressed in black leather-mesh body suits, the dancers flicker through the darkness, lunging deeply, swivelling their torsos, and slicing the air with their arms and legs. Soto carves complex movement set to George Frederick Handel’s opera-seria arias.

      This piece about truth, memory, and dreams lets the fiercest, physically strongest dancers show their stuff. Justin Rapaport, in just his second season with the company, sets the mood instantly with a powerful opening solo—arms arcing, thrusting, and screwing out from his shoulders. Brandon Alley and Livona Ellis pull off a punishing, unsettling duet, and Peter Smida folds Kirsten Wicklund’s legs in and out of splits like bendy straws.

      In the evening’s closer, a remount of Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s Bill, which Ballet BC has been honing on the road, the physical prowess plays out in an entirely different, raw, and playful way. Dressed in pale body suits so tight they seemed painted on, the dancers commit fearlessly to Eyal’s trademark freak-out solos and pulsing group work set to club beats.

      Scott Fowler and Alley tap their inner robo-aliens, creating entire fantasy worlds with their alternately mechanical and reptilian moves. Torsos and pelvises retract and explode, legs bend into thigh-ripping deep pliés, and the piece builds into a throbbing mass of people, with the occasional individual spazzing out on his own. Don’t let Bill’s oddball moves fool you, though: beneath them, the physical and technical demands are unforgiving.

      A live choir accompanies the haunting when you left (with Scott Fowler).
      Michael Slobodian

      Emily Molnar’s new when you left, then, makes a brief but meditative break between these two intense works. It’s set to the haunting vocalizations of the Phoenix Chamber Choir, who conjure a kind of wordless aural magic from the pit. On the dimmed stage, 16 dancers emerge and disappear into the darkness, like the fleeting memories that provided inspiration for the piece.

      It’s a pleasure to immerse yourself in the otherworldly vocals and strings of Peteris Vasks’s Plainscapes, and to lose yourself in the restless, cycling, searching movement of such a full stage of dancers. Extra credit goes to lighting genius James Proudfoot for enhancing the mood, his lights lowering and raising and scanning the crowd, the way your mind might search for an image or an experience.

      One of the most successful collaborations Ballet BC’s undertaken, when you left is a reminder of the power of live music with dance. And it’s a power that can sometimes match all the athletic force on-stage.