Friday, March 16, 2012


I disagree with Kevin Griffin's review of Serge Bennathan and Les Productions Figlio's premiere of the Rio Tinto Alcan Award-winning Elles, on at The Cultch through this Saturday. Griffin found the work "confusing," which was a barrier for him in terms of feeling his way into the piece (as Bennathan, in his choreographic notes, states is his purpose).

For me, the work was all too accessible in its meaning, with the balletic inspiration of Giselle (which Bennathan has talked about repeatedly in publicity for the piece, and which Griffin makes no mention of in his review) overdetermining how I received this exploration of female power and energy--not least in the repeated references (via the fluttering hands and arm movements especially) to the famous Wilis. In other words, the barrier to feeling for me last night was too much (literal?) understanding.

That said, there was some stunning movement on display last night, and it was a treat to see these eight incredibly talented women lined up on stage (Bennathan plays at various points with the traditional notion of a corps de ballet). As for the stage itself, I was reminded last night just what a small footprint The Cultch's Historic Theatre has, even post-renovation (and even with the first few rows of orchestra seats removed), for dance. At times it felt (see, I guess muscular empathy did get through to me on some level) as if the dancers were going to fly into our laps, or tumble off into the wings, when the movement was at its most frenzied. To be sure, this creates a wonderful sense of intimacy between performers and audience. But one has to wonder about the degree to which the limited space sometimes constrains rather than fully unleashes the creativity of the dance artists who use it.

Speaking of The Cultch, Heather Redfern's absence in giving the curtain speech last night reminds me that I have been remiss in this blog in acknowledging the recent passing of Redfern's partner, the late great Jim Green. The tributes have been many and fulsome, and so I won't add to them here--except to say that he was the greatest mayor Vancouver never had. And that we have Woodward's, his gift to the city, to remember him by.


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