Dance

The Sleeping Beauty: this dazzling spectacle drizzled in gold is a feast for the eyes.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photos. Courtesy of the Hong Kong Ballet.

En route to New York City this year, the Hong Kong Ballet’s s dazzling production of The Sleeping Beauty, is currently making a three-day stopover in Ottawa at the the National Arts Centre. Under the keen eye of guest director Cynthia Harvey, former principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre and whom I saw as guest professor and coach of classical variations at this year’s edition of the Prix de Lausanne in February, the visual interpretation of the Petipa choreography became the focal point of this grandiose performance. Such a wealth of stylistic effects, inspired by the ceremonies that defined the French court of Louis XIV, made an eye-catching show of razzle dazzle with Tchaikovsky’s music under the direction of Judith Yan, Artistic director of the Guelph symphony orchestra. Fabulous wigs, enormous dresses that swung and swooped across the stage, shining satin jackets, glittering chandelier’s, crowds of little nymphs and glowing fairies, dresses of delicately transparent material. Everything was drizzled in gold and covered in sequins. Even when the style changes 100 years later in Acts II and III, the movements of the courtiers as well as the costumes, were adapted to the new time frame and the tastes of the local Hong Kong population.

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Hofesh Shechter’s Barbarians. An Immense range of styles that has “no meaning”?

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Gabriele Zuca

It appears that this autumn, London’s Royal Opera House season begins with Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice directed by Hofesh Shechter . It is the choreographer’s directorial debut which can only make one imagine the most glorious of visual moments in the performance. Hofesh will also be doing the choreography of a Broadway revival of Fidler on the Roof, premiering in December. All these events emphasize the enormous versatility of this choreographer, whose trilogy Barbarians opened last night at the NAC. None of this news is surprising because this choreographer took us through an immense range of musics, rhythms, performance styles and relationships with the audience that are rarely seen during a single evening of any dance company.

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Adventures of a Black Girl: a fascinating retelling of Black Canadian History that feeds off the multiple elements of oral performance.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: NAC English Theatre.

This exciting coproduction of the NAC English Theatre/Centaur Theatre Company in association with the Montreal Black Theatre Workshop plunges us into a world where   choreographed singing bodies take over the stage and fill the space with a retelling of Black Canadian history.  Filtering the  main moments  into rituals of death fused with  Judeo-Christian and African origin, playwright and director  Djanet Sears has created an all-encompassing performance locating   the characters squarely in Canada but she creates an exciting dialectic by  correcting the ignorance the misconceptions, and the prejudices that  tainted white perceptions of  Black history in this country.

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THe Adventures of a Black Girl: an ambitious but unsatisfying struggle

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

 

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Photo: Black Theatre Workshop

The struggle to find and hold onto that hope, love and faith impels the action and characters of Adventures, an ambitious and, in the production that opens the new NAC English Theatre season, ultimately unsatisfying show that blends drama and comedy with song and movement, the ever-present spectre of death amid the bloom of life, and the story of a family and its community.

  • The play (its name comes from a George Bernard Shaw short story) premiered in 2002, launching Toronto’s black Obsidian Theatre company. It was then picked up for several months by Mirvish Productions. The current revival, directed by Sears as was the première, played Montreal’s Centaur Theatre before coming to the NAC.

    With its cast of 22, the play is set in a 200-year-old black community in southern Ontario. At its heart are Rainey, a young black woman played by Lucinda Davis, and her aging father Abendigo.

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    Trisha Brown Dance Company: as fresh and contemporary as ever.

    Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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    Photo: NAC    Set and Reset from the Trisha Brown Dance Company

    Ottawa audiences were treated to an exclusive Canadian engagement by the Trisha Brown Dance Company, presenting some of choreographer Trisha Brown’s seminal experiments in postmodern dance performance. Trisha Brown began creating work in 1960 and she formed her Dance Company in 1970 so the four short works we saw, ranging over a period of 28 years, from 1983 to 2011, actually represented important moments of most of her creative career. What stood out was the way they all spoke to each other, all echoing elements that appeared in each of the other performances, each one appearing so fresh, and contemporary, without the slightest hint that anything was dated or past its time. This form of dance-performance gives one the impression that her work represents  a constant process of intense research as it tries to position itself in relation to that which already exists but that is somehow insufficient and even stifling and has to be overcome.

    . Take If You Couldn’t See Me, featuring a single dancer who faces upstage the whole time. Dressed in a flimsy orange dress that glowed in those strong lights, she kept finding positions that foregrounded her arms, her legs, her hips, her shoulders until one suddenly realized that this performance was in the process of changing the spectators gaze. We are watching a body with no face, no eyes, no expression, no emotion and no psychological points of reference. It erases the narrative totally, covers the head in brown hair and deflects our gaze to the back of the body. What dancer has ever had to dance from that perspective before? We watch the creation of a new dancing body, .one that performs from the back using its shoulders, its feet, its heels, its buttocks and the fluttering skirt, …and Robert Rauschenberg’s lighting and costumes helped transform this flittering bit of sparkling orange light into a new moving being… Enchanting!

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    PigeonsAffamés: à la biennale de Zones théâtrales.

    Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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    Photo: Théâtre du  Trillium

    PigeonsAffamés ..conçu par Anne Marie White, vocabulaire corporel et entrainement physique : Mylène Roi; une production du Théâtre du Trillium.

    Dance /théâtre/chanson/mime/choréographie/mouvement/sonorité/lumières qui font tourner la tête et vibrer les pulsations vitales…Curieuse rencontre entre le laisser aller et la discipline parfaite, entre les rythmes d’une jeunesse confuse et effrénée- et la contrainte d’une foule de corps obéissants. l’espace ou Étienne Decroux, Brigitte Haentjens et une boite disco se rencontrent! Que dire de plus??

    Présenté à la Biennale Zones théâtrales, à Ottawa. 18 -19 septembre, 2015.

    Tactics’ Programming at Arts Court

    News from Capital Critics Circle

    2015-2016 TACTICS Programming

    November 13-21, 2015      (off) Balance by Naomi Tessler
                                                 & feelers by Amelia Griffin
    January 22-30, 2016          A Little Fire by Megan Piercey Monafu
    March 11-19, 2016             Perfect Pie by Judith Thompson
    April 22-30, 2016               Woyzeck’s Head, produced by Third Wall Theatre

    All events take place at the Arts Court Theatre, 2 Daly Avenue, K1N 6E2
    8pm performances Wednesday to Saturday
    2pm matinees on the first Sunday and second Saturday of each run
    Panel discussions and other community engagement events are scheduled for the Mondays or Tuesdays during the middle of the production runs.
    2015-2016 Season Subscriptions are now on sale on ArtsCourt.ca/TACTICS at $85 for General Admission and $65 for Student/Senior/Artist. Single tickets for each production are on sale for $25 for General Admission and $20 for Student/Senior/Artist.

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    Pontus Lidberg brings grace, beauty and new visions of the dance to the NAC

    Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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    Photo: Bunraku puppetry…

    Pontus Lidberg Dance – Written on Water and Snow

    The exciting Swedish dancer, choreographer and filmmaker, Pontus Lidberg has a long list of impressive accomplishments in all the above-mentioned fields , working with theatres and companies around the world.  He gives us beautiful as well as challenging creative moves with the human body. A magician who molds and choreographs his lithe corporeal instruments, most of whom appear to have serious balletic training which produces an extraordinary sense of discipline and breathtakingly supple interaction and a multitude of possibilities to be somatised on stage.

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    Photo: Petrus  Sjovik.  Snow. with dancer and puppeteer.

    Written on Water was originally conceived as a pas de deux for the American Ballet Theatre. The plucking , sounds coming from Stefan Levin’s music, that seem to emanate  from industrial material working overtime in an urban setting, form a powerful soundscape that accompanies the two movements of this first piece. The two male dancers, Barton Cowperhwaite and Pontus Lidberg flow together in liquid harmony as they communicate competition, domination, eroticism, submission, disdain and various emotions and competitive stances, always entwined in abstract movements where the ballet base is redefined by modern steps, gestures, and corporeal choices, all conforming to the music, much in the style of Balanchine’s work. The second part of this show brings us back to a pas de deux with a man and woman where the classical balletic style conforms to a more traditional even lyrical vision of that dance form, in keeping with the traditional vision of the mixed gender couple . Nevertheless, there was always a flowing, sweeping grace that accompanied their work that gave one the sense it was all something new.

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    Pontus Lidberg Dance at the NAC. Snow and a Canadian Premiere – This Was Written on Water. .

    News from Capital Critics Circle

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    Photo from the NAC

    April 10, 2015 – OTTAWA (Canada) Sweden’s rising star choreographer Pontus Lidberg makes his NAC debut with a new creation, the breathtakingly poetic Written on Water, as well as his 2013 masterwork, Snow. This is a Canadian premiere and an exclusive Canadian engagement. Pontus Lidberg Dance performs in the Theatre of the National Arts Centre on Tuesday April 14 at 7:30 p.m.

    Set to an original score by Stefan Levin, Written on Water was originally conceived as a Pas de Deux for American Ballet Theatre principal ballerina Isabella Boylston and premiered at New York City Center’s Fall For Dance Festival. This beautiful work has now been expanded to include three dancers.

    In Snow, choreographer Pontus Lidberg performs with three other world-class dancers and a lifelike, highly expressive Japanese Bunraku puppet, for this turbulent composition set in a ceaseless snowfall. Snow contrasts the fleeting and fragile human reality of existence with the enduring character of nature. The work was commissioned by NorrlandsOperan, the opera house of northern Sweden, for its 2013 centenary presentation of Stravinsky’s score The Rite of Spring. With influence from this famous classical work, Snow currently features an original score by Ryan Francis.

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    Vollmond from Tanztheater Wuppertal, A Magnificent Opus that leaves us with the memory of one of the great figures of contemporary dance.

    Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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    Vollmond from Tanztheater Wuppertal. Foto: Jochen Viehoff

    What happens the night of a full moon!  The world  is transformed! A playful and totally liberating event that brought us back to the corporeal experiments of Pina Bausch’s earlier years. Such a wonderful relief this is!!

    A huge rock looms up in the middle of the stage. A heavy volume that grounds the eyes , that grounds the dancers, that grounds the stark landscape providing a strange space for the dancers who eventually ( Act II), include that rock in their choreography as they slide and slip down its slopes. Or they climb over it and slither around its sides. It is almost alive even though that great volume of unmovable matter holds our attention because it shrinks the dancers, it invigorates the movements, it slurps up the bodies in a tiny stream that appears to be drawn along underneath that rocky mass.

    Bausch has recreated a new universe of bodies that, as her earlier work always did,  imposing normal gestures but deconstructing the gracefulness of human corporeal expression to give it all new meaning. She uses other forms of dance , she disrupts everyday moves disarticulates the dancers,  shifts in emotion and their impact on lther bodies. The results are unexpected, beautiful and even joyous but  this time the playful, the “ludique” a great joy of living, dominates . The figures do not mistreat each other the way they used to. They launch themselves into moments of harmonious affection,  playful longings, Instinctual relationships that inspire harsh gestures ( a slap, a twist, a push) but nothing more. Individual women turn to the audience and hiss commonplace challenges at them, always with a slight tilt of the head, a face harbouring  naughty gestures or tricky glances. 

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    Past Reviews