Yesterday afternoon Richard and I took in Arts Umbrella Dance Company's annual Season Finale at the Vancouver Playhouse. As with past shows, it was a bit of a mixed bag, with the younger apprentice company in need of a pleasing end-of-year showcase for their parents, but not always up to the complexities of the choreography.
Three current Ballet BC dancers--Livona Ellis, Andrew Bartee, and Kristen Wicklund--all had pieces on the program for these younger dancers, and all three were rather formal toe shoe and tights classical compositions. Ellis's "To the Last," set to Gabriel Fauré's Requiem, was the best of the lot, but it still left me questioning the wisdom of setting this kind of work on dancers who at this point in their careers have neither the technique nor the strength to execute it satisfyingly.
The senior company fared much better in contemporary works by Cayetano Soto, Michael Schumacher (a fantastic cell phone piece called "Subtext"), Mats Ek, Crystal Pite, James Kudelka, and Wen Wei Wang, whose "Fremd" closed out the afternoon's proceedings. "Fremd" owes a clear debt to William Forsythe's "In the middle, somewhat elevated," down to its pounding sore, the off-kilter axes and non-traditional facings, and the rival ballerinas alone on stage shifting from foot to foot and sizing each other up. Regardless of its origins or influences, the piece allows the company's older dancers, alone and in pairs and trios, to shine, demonstrating their acceleration and speed, their impressive extension, and their overall theatricality.
One thing that rankled yesterday was the amount of distracting commotion in the audience during the performances. To be sure, fidgety pre-teens are only going to be able to sit still for so long. But the rustling of candy wrappers and the slurping on drinks straws was almost as loud as the music being played during each piece. Some of the parents were just as bad, ignoring the announcement about no cell phones and taking the opportunity to catch up on their texts when their own kids were not on stage. It was most annoying and makes me think that this is the last such event I'll be going to.