ARTS Ballet BC opens season with challenging vision
Janet Smith DANCE
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.
MARKING THE INFINITE: CONTEMPORARY WOMEN ARTISTS FROM ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIA
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.