Volume 91, Issue 74

Tuesday, February 10, 1998

grilled cheese


ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
 

B.C. ballet gets right to pointe


©David Cooper/Ballet B.C


By Sara Marett
Gazette Staff

Ballet British Columbia graced The Grand Theatre's stage for only one night on Saturday, leaving its audience wanting more after an intriguing performance which combined classical and contemporary styles of dance.

Artistic director John Alleyne presented his 14-member dance company through three separate performances in which traditional choreography is intertwined with bold, almost acrobatic moves.

The programme begins with a performance entitled, In the Course of Sleeping, which examines the world between life and death as the dancers float on stage with pastel coloured chiffon costumes as if they were fairies or angels. Alleyne daringly pairs two men for a pas de deux in this performance, presenting a dramatic twist on the traditional male-female duet.

The third performance, entitled Dvorak Serenade, combines the elements of three types of dance, the waltz, the scherzo and the finale. With willowy dresses the female dancers are accompanied by their male counterparts as the choreography explores the lyrical tendencies of the score.

But the highlight of the company's programme is the second performance, entitled Conversation Piece. With a dramatic kiss at centre stage, this dance begins with a gasp as the male and female characters strip off their clothes and embrace to Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5. What develops is a love triangle between a man, his mistress and his wife in a story so dramatic one almost expects the dancers to speak.

The lovers are scorned by a chorus of four dancers – two couples dressed in black and burgundy comment on and condemn the lovers hypocritically as they flirt shamelessly with each other. They spit on the mistress and scorn her with their angular moves and flexed feet which express their distaste with her actions.

Enter the wife – whose fast, intricate moves display her pain. Dramatically, she drops her frail head to her feet as if frustrated with her situation and appears to break under her suffering as she continually falls to the floor. As the triangle develops, each woman seems to love the man unconditionally as the chorus shakes their cast-away clothes at them in shame.

A single spotlight glows on the scantily-clad couple who lie centre-stage in an embrace, then perform a slow, sensual duet, most of it with their backs to the audience. They have suddenly become more private in their relationship – the gossiping chorus has disappeared and they are free to express their love without judgement.

Alleyene has reconstructed the art of ballet through daring choreography designed so brilliantly in tune with the accompanying music one almost forgets the performance was without a live orchestra. By bringing Ballet British Columbia to a crossroad of classical and contemporary, Alleyne has succeeded in preparing ballet for the 21st century.


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