Sep. 19, 2012 - Issue #883: Best of Edmonton 2012
Great Masterpieces of the 20th Century
Though the title of Alberta Ballet's season opener seems more suited to one you might see at an art gallery, artistic director Jean Grand-Maître explains that the seminal era of ballet's development that happened in New York between the late 1930s and '70s was nothing short of a true masterpiece period.
The mixed bill to be presented at the Jubilee Auditorium this weekend, Great Masterpieces of the 20th Century, consists of two ballets by classical choreographer George Balanchine and a third piece by contemporary dance maven Twyla Tharp, who's best known for her credits on Broadway and film musicals like Hair and Amadeus.
"These choreographers are monuments, they're titans of choreography," says Grand-Maître, noting that Balanchine came to New York from the Ballets Russes, where he worked directly with composers like Prokofiev, Debussy and Stravinsky, plus set and costume designers of the likes of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.
"When you think about Manhattan at that time, from Balanchine to Jerome Robbins to Baryshnikov to Martha Graham, you could probably spit off 20 names of choreographic geniuses living and creating there, all some of the greatest dancers in the world. It was a revolutionary moment in art for theatre and dance," he says, adding that the two répétituers (the people who "set" the ballets according to the original choreography) that Alberta Ballet has brought in for this presentation indeed lived in New York and worked with the original choreographers throughout their careers.
The pieces in the program—Balanchine's classical Divertimento No. 15 and the more stark, abstract Four Temperaments, followed by Tharp's collaboration with Philip Glass, In The Upper Room—cover not only the history of classical, neoclassical and modern ballet, but also illustrate a range of, well, let's call them dance flavours.
"It's like having a three-course meal where every taste is very different, it's a different excitement to the palate with each one," says Grand-Maître. "The whole process took 10 weeks because it's such a challenging program. From the regal tutus in Divertimento, to the more edgy neo-classical in The Four Temperaments—which is still very much on pointe and technical—to Twyla Tharp's kind of relaxed, nonchalant contemporary dance where suddenly a dancer has to pull off four pirouettes just coming straight off the floor ... For the dancers it's like trying to dance with three different companies, three different styles."
Particularly with Tharp's In The Upper Room, Grand-Maître says his dancers are truly feeling the pressure.
"The complexity and the structure of the music is beyond anything they've danced to before. The dancers are continuously counting, the lifts are dangerous ... it's almost Cirque du Soleil-like challenging. There are dancers wearing sneakers, dancers that are on pointe—it's almost created to show an audience dancers that are throwing themselves at this choreography. Kelly McKinlay and Nicole Caron, they've been with the ballet here over 10 years and they say this is the most difficult program they've ever had to dance. 'More difficult than Swan Lake?' I asked, and they said yes."
He laughs a bit. "So I said, 'Now you see what my generation was doing.'"
Fri, Sep 21 – Sat, Sep 22 (7:30 pm)
Presented by Alberta Ballet
Jubilee Auditorium, $26 – $89 vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
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