Ballet BC – Program 3 - Exuberant Ensemble Moments

Minus16_Dress_11052017_31 photo©Michael Slobodian Minus 16 Choreography / Ohad Naharin Dancers / Artists of Ballet BC

I was excited about seeing Program 3 since it was announced a year ago that they were to be performing a work by Ohad Naharin, director of the mighty Batsheva Dance Company. Add to that new work by acclaimed choreographer Emanuel Gat, and a fresh piece by Ballet BC’s director Emily Molnar and we were set for an intriguing evening of dance.

LOCK is a complex and deeply absorbing work by Emanuel Gat and the dancers of Ballet BC. It is a piece about the dancers, ‘their history, talent, commitment and curiosity’. Gat gives us an opportunity to observe the visual language of this company, which played out like a conversation in movement. Their depth of listening, their finely tuned awareness of themselves and others, and the space within and around them was apparent in the duets. In the pre-show talk Emanuel Gat was careful to point out that this was not strictly improvisation but more about the way the dancers work off each other while having a sense of where they are going within the piece. The individual ‘conversations’, when looked on as a whole, produced a vibrant pulsing mass, which flickered with singular bursts of energy. It was like seeing the initial creative spark that propels an impulse into form. There were some incredible balance poses which the dancers returned to many times, and when the ambience became more joyful, echoed by the rhythmic quality of the music, we were treated to some beautiful ensemble moments. This is a powerful and brilliant work. Its energy rose and fell but its intensity never dipped. It provides a unique insight into the workings of a dance company. It is a journey of enquiry and of longing for connection, of deep listening and awareness.

Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming was created as part of the Encounters project which paired three Canadian choreographers with three Canadian composers in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary. This piece contrasted the first with its more open and fluid staging. It was fast paced, energetic, and very exciting to watch. It seemed to keep coming in waves and matched the relentless intensity of the music. Nicole Lizee’s stunning and fascinating score is intricately layered both sonically and rhythmically, with lots of dynamic contrast reflected in the choreography. This is an exquisite work with some beautiful, exuberant ensemble moments. It was a joy to experience and met with audience approval.

I was lucky enough to see Batsheva Dance Ensemble (the younger members of Batsheva Dance Company) when they toured my native UK in 2012. This was when I first saw excerpts of Naharin’s Minus 16. It is a unique and powerful work and I had wondered how Ballet BC would handle a piece that is so intrinsically linked to the Israeli company. I need not have worried. They tore into this piece with unprecedented energy and presence that elicited raucous approval from their enthralled audience. The piece begins during the second intermission with a solo male dancer surveying the auditorium from the front of the stage. Gradually, movement begins. It is instinctual, random, and without attachment to form. This is Gaga, an approach to movement devised by Ohad Naharin. Gaga is described as being a way to activate our own movement instinct, a way of tapping in to the primal body. Its essence is about being in the moment, and about listening in the moment, and staying in tune to the possibilities inherent in the present. When the practice or understanding of Gaga is applied to a technique of dance it brings a unique quality, brimming with vitality and potential.

The now famous section of this work where the dancers are sat on chairs arranged in a giant arc across the stage is a true spectacle. The music pounds (Echad Mi Yodea), the dancers chant, and the movement is explosive. As it progresses the dancers gradually undress from their dark suits to their underwear. The energy of this impressive piece is deliriously high, and executed with almost military precision. There is a beautiful and tender duet between a male and female dancer that follows set to the haunting sound of a counter tenor (James Bowman) written by Antonio Vivaldi (‘Cum dederit’ from Nis Dominus, Psalm 126). Part of Naharin’s intent with this work was to break down the boundaries between audience and performer. He clearly succeeds in this when the full compliment of sixteen dancers select an audience member each to bring on to the stage to dance with them. This highlights Ballet BC’s innate sense of play, which is carried out with consummate ease.

Program 3 concluded to a standing ovation and roars of appreciation from an audience who have grown increasingly fond, and proud, of their contemporary dance company. This was a spectacular evening of dance of the highest calibre.

Program 3 runs until Saturday 13th May at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Vancouver.

A note from Danielle on the Plank team: Attending and reviewing Ballet BC's work has become the highlight of my calendar. I know Lawrence would say the same. I've included some snippets from the 2017 - 2018 season press release below. The runs are short, only three nights in Vancouver, for each production, but well worth catching.

“Now entering my ninth season, I am overwhelmed with feelings of appreciation and honour,” says Ballet BC’s Artistic Director Emily Molnar. “Always curious, it is my vision to explore and foster growth for dance globally and expose unique experiences to audiences wherever Ballet BC is on stage. Grateful for the relationships we continue to develop with our supporters, I am excited for the upcoming year’s opportunity to work with exceptional collaborators. Dance at its best is transformational. It can transform a city, a room, a person, a way of seeing things. Our commitment to creating dance and art is a clear manifestation of our unique conversation with all of you—our community.” – Emily Molnar, Artistic Director

Contemporary yet timeless, this season begins with a driving new work by internationally acclaimed Resident Choreographer Cayetano Soto and the North American debut of B.R.I.S.A. by Swedish-born Johan Inger, one of the most sought after choreographers in Europe today. Program 2 will be a Ballet BC first—a fresh and thought-provoking retelling of the classic Romeo and Juliet by rising French star and returning choreographer, Medhi Walerski. Our season closes with the remount of Cayetano Soto’s striking BEGINNING AFTER, the eagerly anticipated return of Bill by long-time creative partners Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar and a world premiere by Ballet BC Artistic Director Emily Molnar in collaboration with the award- winning Phoenix Chamber Choir.

Program 1
Ballet BC
November 2-4, 2017, 8:00pm

Program 2
Ballet BC
February 22-24, 2018, 8:00pm; February 24, 2018, 2:00pm

Program 3
Ballet BC
May 10-12, 2018, 8:00pm

Guest Performance
Alberta Ballet
December 28-30, 2017, 7:30pm; Dec 29 & 30, 2:00pm

By Lawrence Kelson