Bal­let BC opener up­ends form

A Bal­let BC pro­duc­tion. At the Queen El­iz­a­beth The­atre on Thurs­day, Novem­ber 2. No re­main­ing per­for­mances

The Georgia Straight - - Arts - > JANET SMITH

Bal­let BC’S bold sea­son-open­ing 2 dou­ble bill fed two ex­tremely dif­fer­ent parts of the brain. It also stood as a vi­brant les­son in the di­verse ways chore­og­ra­phers are upend­ing bal­let right now, and in the wild in­ter­pre­tive pow­ers of our pre­mier dance com­pany.

Let’s start back­wards, with the sec­ond piece, be­cause it was packed with more sweet sur­prises than a piñata—not the least be­ing the troupe’s comic-act­ing skills. As we learned with his pre­vi­ous ef­fort, Walk­ing Mad, Swedish chore­og­ra­pher Jo­han In­ger loves ab­sur­dist touches, off­beat props, and earthy, all-too-hu­man move­ment and emo­tion. With B.R.I.S.A., he took even more whim­si­cal risks.

B.R.I.S.A. opened with the dancers shuf­fling, heads down, like in­tro­verted zom­bies, tread­ing set paths along the stage’s cen­tral car­pet. Slowly, through the small ac­tions of cer­tain mem­bers of the group they started to open up, in­ter­act, and find their bliss. Much of this was ac­com­plished through the dis­cov­ery of the tit­u­lar breeze—through fans, hair dry­ers, and other un­ex­pected de­vices.

In­ger has said the work is about the winds of change, how small events can spark po­lit­i­cal and so­cial rev­o­lu­tions—all un­der­lined by Nina Si­mone’s soul­ful bat­tle cries on the sound­track. Okay, but the piece is also about sex, isn’t it? It was huge fun watch­ing Kirsten Wick­lund when a group of guys blasted her with their blow­ers, their gusts rip­pling up her skirt and long hair: she was in ec­stasy, at first sig­nalling them to ease off, then beg­ging them to do it more. Brandon Al­ley was hi­lar­i­ous, stop­ping to look down at his de­vice, form­ing a wide grin as he awak­ened to what he’d just achieved with his “in­stru­ment”.

The work was so play­ful that it was easy to for­get how de­mand­ing it was. In­ger loves to cen­tre the dancers low, push­ing them into groin-tear­ing lunges. He al­ter­nates ev­ery­day ges­tures with tech­ni­cal grace, even mak­ing a few nods to folk dance, and then sends, say, Alexis Fletcher (an­other dra­matic stand­out here) rolling vi­o­lently across the car­pet.

With some au­di­ence mem­bers left be­wil­dered, In­ger had clearly just staged a sub­ver­sive lit­tle act of his own.

While In­ger put his own hu­mor­ous, the­atri­cal spin on con­tem­po­rary bal­let, Cayetano Soto metic­u­lously took bal­let apart and res­culpted it into new, dizzy­ingly ab­stract forms. The Cata­lan chore­og­ra­pher’s pre­miere, Eight Years of Si­lence, was a rich, vir­tu­osic ap­peal to the se­ri­ous dance lover. And this troupe is get­ting ever-bet­ter at pulling off his crisp, flick­er­ing, tor­nado-fast move­ment.

Soto’s work can be dark, and this is no ex­cep­tion: the dancers per­formed in dully metal­lic body suits against a grim grey cur­tain amid dim light­ing. The over­cast mood was height­ened by the melan­choly strings of Peter Greg­son’s score.

As usual, the highlight of Soto’s work was the part­ner­ing, a swirl of scis­sor­ing and split­ting legs, the women’s limbs bend­ing crane-fly­like up and back­wards around the men’s necks.

The piece was sup­posed to be about fac­ing our fears, par­tic­u­larly of death. But Soto ex­plored those anx­i­eties through dancers who al­ways main­tain an icy re­move—an ap­proach that might leave some view­ers cold.

Still, whether you pre­fer his more ab­stract vis­ual artistry or In­ger’s earth­ier di­ver­sions, it was likely there was some­thing you’d like on the pro­gram. One might even have blown you away.

B.R.I.S.A.

Bal­let BC stand­out Brandon Al­ley arches back­ward on the car­pet in Jo­han In­ger’s whim­si­cal ode to bliss, Michael Slo­bo­dian photo.

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