ARTS Bal­let BC opens sea­son with chal­leng­ing vi­sion

Janet Smith DANCE

The Georgia Straight - - Arts - By

dWHAT CAN WE read into Bal­let BC’S choice to open its sea­son­launch­ing pro­gram with William Forsythe’s driv­ing, deliri­ous En­emy in the Fig­ure?

On one level, stag­ing such a breath­tak­ingly dif­fi­cult piece an­nounces the high phys­i­cal and in­tel­lec­tual so­phis­ti­ca­tion of the com­pany. It also marks a troupe ea­ger to push for­ward—an en­ergy, an au­dac­ity, an am­bi­tion, but most of all, a com­mit­ment.

What’s most re­mark­able watch­ing this piece, staged for the first time in Canada, is that even though Forsythe cre­ated it in 1989, it still feels cut­ting-edge. En­emy in the Fig­ure is un­flinch­ingly chal­leng­ing, with its speed-of-sound mo­tion, its shift­ing set pieces, and its gru­elling de­mands for tech­nique. It’s a puz­zle box of ever-mov­ing parts, dancers jump­ing to avoid a thick rope that rip­ples across the stage or catch­ing the glare of a rolling flood­light. They throw dy­namic shad­ows against a wavy cen­tral wall, push up against it, and some­times dis­ap­pear into the dark­ness. The in­tri­cately de­signed frenzy has the mys­tery and thrill of film noir, ab­stracted into con­cep­tual art.

It’s an ex­hil­a­rat­ing dream­scape that scat­ters the viewer’s at­ten­tion, with danc­ing often go­ing on at op­po­site ends of the space.

The male artists, es­pe­cially rel­a­tive new­com­ers like Justin Ra­pa­port and Pa­trick Kil­bane, pull off sharply de­fined jetés and ath­letic kicks and spins across the stage. But the work also cel­e­brates the women’s skill level, as the fa­mous chore­og­ra­pher dis­torts and pushes the lan­guage of clas­si­cal bal­let to an­gu­lar ex­tremes.

It’s a mar­vel artis­tic di­rec­tor Emily Mol­nar has spent years want­ing to stage—and it’s been worth the wait. She’s cel­e­brat­ing a decade as artis­tic di­rec­tor of the com­pany, and the mixed pro­gram was an apt ode to her jour­ney. Forsythe, af­ter all, was her men­tor back when she was a dancer at the Frank­furt Bal­let.

She fol­lowed En­emy in the Fig­ure with her own To this day—a piece that could not feel any freer and looser, as it was meant to, by com­par­i­son. Wear­ing pri­mary-hued cos­tumes, dancers ride the wild grooves of Jimi Hen­drix’s post­hu­mous Blues al­bum. The piece’s big­gest strength is show­ing the dancers as in­di­vid­u­als, and let­ting them find a rawer, more idio­syn­cratic new side.

As for the show-clos­ing Pe­tite Céré­monie, one of the most suc­cess­ful pieces Bal­let BC has staged un­der Mol­nar’s reign, it was like dessert to all this—a nos­tal­gic treat that’s a com­pany and au­di­ence favourite alike. Parisian chore­og­ra­pher Medhi Waler­ski opens the stage to the flies, and sends out dancers in black suits and cock­tail dresses.

In all, Pro­gram 1 cel­e­brated where Bal­let BC has been, and as­serted where it’s go­ing—and judg­ing by the au­di­ence’s en­thu­si­as­tic re­cep­tion, view­ers are ready to go along for the ride.


At the Mu­seum of An­thro­pol­ogy at UBC un­til March 31, 2019


MADE­LINE’S MADE­LINE Star­ring Molly Parker. Rated PG

Burn­ing, based on a short story by Haruki Mu­rakami.

(vet­eran trick­ster Mi­randa July, in a rare straight role). This volatile teen, who has spent un­spec­i­fied time in a men­tal-care fa­cil­ity, is con­vinced she is some kind of cat—a source of con­ster­na­tion for Regina but some­how a de­light to her co­horts in a liv­ingth­e­atre work­shop she’s part of. The im­prov group is led by the preg­nant and fre­quently tear­ful Evan­ge­line, played by Van­cou­ver’s Molly Parker. Don’t look for any­thing here to show up in her show reel.

The al­leged dra­matic ten­sion cen­tres on a ma­ter­nal tug of war be­tween two grown women over the af­fec­tions of a child who is, frankly, not par­tic­u­larly charm­ing, tal­ented, or even forth­com­ing—all draw­backs in the act­ing de­part­ment. She is, how­ever, un­usu­ally pretty, but is that where we’re at these days? Ev­ery­one keeps talk­ing about Made­line’s po­ten­tial, but the ev­i­dence is buried un­der an avalanche of mon­tages, jump cuts, and murky POV shots, all fur­ther dis­com­bob­u­lated by a sound­track that mixes throb­bing elec­tronic sounds with om­nipresent heart­beats, heavy breath­ing, in­ter­nal mono­logues, and off-screen con­ver­sa­tions that often ap­pear un­re­lated to the ac­tion—like Ter­rence Mal­ick, mi­nus the Beethoven and pretty pic­tures.

What lit­tle syn­chro­nized sound is used seems wholly im­pro­vised, with lit­tle mem­o­rable com­ing out of it. This fits, in a way, with the set­ting. But film­mak­ers usu­ally work for pos­ter­ity, not just in the mo­ment. And this Made­line is noth­ing for Proust to write home about.

Ken Eis­ner

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