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Audience goes Gaga for Ballet B.C.

Home court advantage: devoted fans pack Q.E. for Program 3

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Abstract as this may seem, Molnar uses smart stagecraft to make the whole concept intuitively accessible. Montreal composer Nicole Lizée (described in the program notes as a mistress of rave, glitch and ‘turntableism’) propels the dancers with an expressly commissioned score, recorded by the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Lighting designer Jock Munro uses nine swivel-mounted overhead spots that converge and diverge to track the action and help sort out the shifting relationships.  

None of which – neither the stagecraft nor the conceptual subtlety – could bring off a work as ambitious as Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming without the sheer talent and coordination of the world-class dancers themselves.

Not to mention their impressive versatility, which was on full display in the final – and arguably climactic – piece on the programme. It’s a potpourri of excerpts from the three-decade run of Israel’s “It” choreographer, Ohad Naharin, at the helm of Batsheva, the country’s preeminent dance company.

Enigmatically entitled Minus 16, the work showcases Naharin’s signature “movement language,” Gaga, a kind of improvisatory dance idiom. It’s solidly grounded in the most disciplined vocabulary of classic ballet, yet playful and deeply subversive, unafraid to take risks or even look a little silly. Gaga acolytes are famously denied mirrors in their training studios; it’s not about how the movements look, but how they feel in execution.

Nevertheless, they actually look pretty impressive, as demonstrated in the 16 wildly eclectic selections on the BBC bill. Musical accompaniment ranged from soft-shoe Cole Porter to a Vivaldi motet to a raucous rock setting of an iterative counting game from the Passover Haggadah.

By the time they’d gotten to selection number 12 – the Don Swan orchestra’s rendition of Hooray for Hollywood – the dancers’ exuberance overspilled the proscenium and out into the house, where they plucked a random selection of concert-goers out of the crowd to drag back on stage for a round of cha-cha and rumba (Beltran/Demetrio’s Sway).

Such is the power of Gaga that the startled audience recruits all managed to enter admirably into the spirit of the occasion before being dispatched back to their seats.

Whereupon the whole cast erupted into a final frenzy of rumba ecstasy, interrupted only by a brief and florid rendition of a Chopin nocturne just to remind us of Gaga’s balletic roots. Then the rumba resumed for a foot-stomping, hand-waving finale that brought the audience to its feet.

BBC fans can look forward to another première-studded season in 2017-18, as the company’s resident choreographer, Cayetano Soto, debuts two new works – one in November and another next May. For the November program, Soto doubles as costume and lighting designer, too.

His May offering is set to a Handel score. It will share the bill with a world première offering of a new work by Molnar, to be accompanied by Peteris Vasks’ vocalise Plainscapes as performed by Vancouver’s own Phoenix Chamber Choir. Rounding out the program will be the Canadian debut of a new work by Israeli choreographers Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar.

Two luminaries from the prestigious Nederlands Dans Theater will also highlight the BBC’s 2017-18 bill. NDT associate choreographer Johan Inger has licensed the company to perform the North American debut of his 2014 ballet B.R.I.S.A. in November. And in February, longtime NDT star Medhi Walerski will mount his first full-length narrative work, a restaging of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet score.




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