Reviewed by on    Dance  

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The opening sequence of Crystal Pite’s latest work is a stunning multi-media tempest and shipwreck.

It immediately makes one forget the silly Brechtian opening of Prospero, clad in black-street clothes, sitting on the edge of the stage making paper boats, while audience members take their seats.

The Canadian premiere of Pite’s The Tempest Replica (first performed in Frankfurt, Germany, in October 2011) continues with white-bandaged, faceless dancers presenting Shakespeare’s storyline, with projections of scene numbers interjected.

Manipulated by Prospero, their early movements are puppet-like, bringing to mind similar movements by a faceless character in the television advertisements for an arthritis medication.

As soon as the dancers move more naturally, their beautifully disciplined and stylish presentation is universally breathtaking, with a special accolade to the woman playing the spirit Ariel. It is a pity that the performers, Bryan Arias, Eric Beauchesne, Sandra Marin Garcia, Yannick Matthon, Jiri Pokorny, Cindy Salgado and Jermaine Maurice Spivey, are not identified by role.

Unfortunately, the wonder of the first section is drowned by the weakness of the second half of the intermissionless piece. The dancers have shed their white anonymity and now wear street clothes. Prospero, less benign than Shakespeare’s creation, becomes violent with all his enemies, including Caliban, and the ballet degenerates into a rumble, which drags on to a disappointing end.

Owen Belton’s music is compelling and the technical aspects and timing enhance the concept. If only the second half of the ballet lived up to its opening promise…

Creator/choreographer: Crystal Pite

Composer: Owen Belton

Sound: Alessandro Juliani and Meg Roe

Voice: Peter Chu/Meg Roe

Lighting: Robert Sondegaard

Set: Jay Gower taylor

Costumes: Nancy Bryant