Saturday, November 19, 2011

3 Cheers for 3 Fold

I do believe that 3 Fold, Ballet BC's latest offering (on at the Queen E through through this evening), is the most inspired programming of new choreography for the company since Artistic Director Emily Molnar took over in 2009. To be fair, I missed what was by all accounts last year's stand-out hit, José Navas' Bliss--but mercifully that will be reprised in the spring along with what I understand will be Navas' new take on Giselle. Nevertheless, last night I was riveted by the dancing, and judging by the rest of the audience's reaction, most everyone else was as well.

The evening began with what for me was the most compelling work, the world premiere of Polish-Canadian Robert Glumbek's Diversion. Such complex choreography danced with such compelling emotion by the Ballet BC company, who have never looked better. And so many surprising moments that had one leaning forward or jolting back in one's seat in kinesthetic empathy. So it was when Gilbert Small, exiting stage right in a long arc of rectangular light provided by designer James Proudfoot (whose contributions are perfectly in tune with Glumbek's choreography), is suddenly barraged by a succession of leaping ballerinas from the wings, whose weight and velocity he must attempt to receive as delicately as possibly. I had thought that would be the end of the piece, but there follows a gorgeous concluding pas de deux by Conor Gnam (at least I think it was Conor) and newcomer Rachel Meyer, whose arm and leg extensions in the lifts were alone worth the price of admission.

Meyer, who graces the program cover and advertising posters for 3 Fold, is one of several new faces in the company this year (another is Daniel Marshalsay, ably filling the shoes--or socks--of the departed Leon Feizo-Gas, especially in a wonderful trio with Peter Smida and Small), and she is an outstanding addition; I could not take my eyes off of her the whole evening. I was also pleased to see that Livonia Ellis has been promoted from apprentice to full company member this year. She is a wonderful dancer, at once athletic and subtly expressive, combining power and grace.

Next up was Italian choreographer Walter Matteini's Parole Sospese, his take on sixteenth-century poet Ludovico Ariosto's fabulist world. The piece is wonderfully theatrical, beginning with a dumbshow in front of the curtain, and making use of all kinds of stage effects, including books suspended from the rafters, a series of moving flies, backdrops, and scrims, and--most compellingly--rows of lightbulbs on wires that descend to the floor at on point, and through which the dancers must carefully move. I wasn't sure if Jed Duifhuis' impresario/master of ceremonies always worked as a conceit (especially in the waltz with Gnam), but I did appreciate Matteini's decision to resist a linear narrative in favour of the particular demands (technical and emotional) of successive movement sequences--a highlight in this regard was a wonderful solo near the end by Alyson Fretz. I was also pleasantly surprised by how willing Matteini was to mix up his styles and steps, throwing in the odd breakdance move amid all the turnout and extension.

Simone Orlando's Doppeling concluded the program. Since its premiere at Surfacing, Molnar's pared down reintroduction of the transformed company at The Dance Centre in 2009, the work has gotten bigger and bolder, the steps more complex, and the body suits worn by the dancers even tighter! What I especially appreciated watching Orlando's take on Coppélia-like conformity this time was her musicality, with all the dancers in precise lockstep with Bach's Concerto in d minor. Except of course when they weren't--as when, with a syncopated hip thrust and a grand removal of her bobbed wig and shaking out of her long tresses, Makaila Wallace decided to dance to her own beat.

Adding to the good feeling of the evening was Molnar's announcement, during her curtain speech, that the company had secured multi-year corporate sponsorship from Fasken Martineau. This will allow Ballet BC to continue to commission new work while also working to rebuild and grow its audiences, which, judging by the size of last night's crowd, it still needs to work on.

Here's hoping that after you all vote today, you fill the seats at the Queen E this evening.


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