Although Richard and I are subscribers to Ballet BC, and although we had seen all of the pieces that make up this weekend's Encore program before, last night still felt special, as for the first time this year the company is pairing up with the PuSh Festival. It was great to see all the PuSh program guides being perused by audience members, and I took the opportunity to make several recommendations.
Having earlier that morning talked about William Forsythe's Improvisation Technologies with my SFU Contemporary Arts students in the Dance-Theatre class I'm teaching this semester, I was newly attuned to how his Herman Schmerman, the first piece on the program, was put together in terms of shapes and phrasings and tempo. I detected a few stumbles among the dancers in the opening quintet, Forsythe's steps being notoriously difficult, and the pacing of this piece particularly brutal. However, Alexis Fletcher and Connor Gnam were on fire in the signature duet that follows.
Jorma Elo's 1st Flash is choreographed to Sibelius' stunning Violin Concerto in D minor, and features equally spectacular lighting. But the dancing more than holds its own, beginning and ending not just in half-light, but in silence, as if to say, which is more virtuosic: the music or the movement? With newer company members Alexander Burton and Livona Ellis (who emerged as the star of last night's program) joining veterans Maggie Forgeron, Alyson Fretz, Gnam, and Gilbert Small in realizing Elo's intensely physical but slightly quirky movement patterns (lush arabesques and lifts followed by squats and hops), the answer to that question in my mind was very clear.
Petite Cérémonie, created especially for Ballet BC in 2011 by Medhi Walerski, concluded the program, a showcase for the full company's athleticism and witty theatricality (I had forgotten about Dario Dinuzzi's juggling and spoken word bit). Beginning with the exterior rear wall of the stage exposed, the dancers enter in turn from the wings, but also the audience, eventually joining each other in a quasi-chorus line, the only movement a simple shifting from one foot to the other. Things get decidedly more dynamic from there, especially when Vivaldi's Four Seasons starts blaring. I still think the piece, overall, is more style than substance, but one of the things I did notice this time in ruminating on Walerski's somewhat too-obvious metaphor of "life-in-a-box," was how (in addition to gender and the black box of the theatre) it could be applied to the choreographic box of unison vs. non-unison in movement.