A MASTERPIECE EVENT
Theatre Review of Alberta Ballet's Great Masterpieces of the 20th Century September 13 - 15, 2012 at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary, AB and September 21 - 22, 2012 at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton, AB
The Alberta Ballet brings to life the magnificence of Balanchine and Tharp
The Alberta Ballet began its 46th season last week with its presentation, Great masterpieces of the 20th century. This was a rare opportunity to witness three choreographic gems by two legends in the world of dance – George Balanchine and Twyla Tharp. The superb Alberta Ballet, under the direction of renowned artistic director, Jean Grand-Maitre and in partnership with the world class Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of musical director, Peter Dala, masterfully presented the exquisite works of Balanchine and Tharp.
Before the performance began, Grand-Maitre made a heart felt speech, acknowledging the passing away of former Alberta Premier, Peter Lougheed. Grand-Maitre recognized Lougheed for his lifelong dedication to the dance community and thanked him for his unwavering appreciation and commitment towards the arts. It was an emotionally stirring and very fitting tribute to a great, passionate leader.
The first piece of the production, Divertimento no. 15 choreographed by George Balanchine, was beautifully performed to Mozart’s Divertimento in B-flat major. On the evening that I attended the performance, Elier Bourzac, Alison Dubsky, Hayna Gutierrez, Nicole Caron, Akiko Ishii, Mariko Kondo, David Neal and Ben Warner brilliantly danced the principal roles. The dancers brilliantly brought to life 18th century classical ballet, danced with warm sensitivity to the music and meticulous detail to the distinctive style. The costumes, designed by Karinska were absolutely gorgeous. Combined with Pierre Lavoie’s wonderful lighting design, Divertimento no. 15 was quite a treat to watch.
The next piece, George Balanchine’s The four temperaments, demonstrated Balanchine’s superb diversity as a choreographer. Completely different from the 18th century classical style of Divertimento no. 15, The four temperaments (which, interestingly premiered in 1946 – ten years prior to the premiere of Divertimento no. 15) showcased neo-classical ballet at its best. The piece featured inventive, sharp, angular lines with a very clean look – the costumes consisted of simple body suits and tights, and the set was minimal.
According to the programme, “the ballet is inspired by the medieval belief that human beings are made up of four different humours that determine a person’s temperament.” The piece reflected all four of the different temperaments (gloomily pensive, headstrong and passionate, unemotional and passive, bad-tempered and angry). I really enjoyed this piece – it was extremely inventive and interesting; it was also really nice to see the contrast between Balanchine’s classical and neo-classical works.
At the end of The four temperaments, the entire Jubilee stage was full of dancers as students from the School of Alberta Ballet had the opportunity to join the company in the finale section. It was wonderful to see so many outstanding dancers at different stages in their careers join together for a memorable ending to an extraordinary piece.
The final piece, Twyla Tharp’s In the upper room, completely took my breath away. I have absolutely no idea what the storyline was and the description in the programme really didn’t explain it – but who cares! This piece made my heart pound right from start the finish – in fact, my heart was pounding long after the piece was over. Coupled with the brilliance of the Calgary Philharmonic, Alberta Ballet’s performance of In the upper room was an absolutely stunning showcase of contemporary ballet and jazz – shades of Tharp’s later works, such as her broadway shows, Movin’ out and Come fly away. The magnificent artistry of the piece was something I had rarely seen on stage before – Alberta Ballet’s Love Lies Bleeding is the only other dance performance that left me as breathless as In the upper Room.
This piece was pure athletic presentation at its best. The stompers, danced by Tara Williamson, Nicole Caron, Alison Dubsky, Kelley McKinlay, David Neal and Garrett Groat, displayed unbelievable athleticism throughout the performance – I was tired just watching them. Ironically, my favourite and least favourite aspects of the piece were the ballet couples, played by Akiko Ishii, Hayna Gutierrez, Skye Balfour-Ducharme, Yukichi Hattori, Jaciel Gomez and Peter Starr. There were times in the first half of the piece that I thought the couple sections were a little messy and not quite as refined as I would have liked. For instance, the timing was a little off amongst the couples and not all the angles and positions were exactly the same. However, midway through the piece, the ballet couples delivered a section of choreography that was to die for. Their timing and interpretation of Twarp’s amazing choreography was absolutely stunning – I thought my heart was going to pound right out of my chest.
In addition, it is always a treat to watch Yukichi Hattori onstage. His unbelievable technique, athleticism and character interpretation is always first rate. Furthermore, I would also like to point out two other outstanding company dancers that always take my breath away – Nicole Caron and Tara Williamson. These two fine dancers never cease to amaze me - yes, they both have brilliant technique and beautiful lines but they also have an extraordinary ability to interpret any style or character that is thrown at them.
In the upper room was the perfect finale piece to close out an exceptional evening of dance. Alberta Ballet’s presentation, Great masterpieces of the 20th century was a masterpiece showcase of a first rate dance company and I was delighted to have the opportunity to witness such fine work. It was truly inspiring and I look forward to the remainder of what promises to be an extremely sensational 46th season for the Alberta Ballet.
Rating: 4.5 stars out 5 Go to top of page