Grace Symmetry - Triumph of the Human Form
Ballet BC is, in my opinion, the best performing arts company in Vancouver. Innovative, thought-provoking, collaborative, expressive, disciplined, inspired, dedicated and consistent in delivering a high standard of production.
After listening to Emily Molnar and Medhi Walerski at the pre-talk so eloquently describe the intentions and qualities of the work in Grace Symmetry and then experiencing (not just watching, but hearing and feeling) such a powerful, graceful, poignant and physically eloquent collection of pieces, I feel that my words are awkward and fumbling in comparison. There is no way to describe the depth, subtlety and power of what happened to me last night. I will do my best, but please do your best to listen behind and beneath the words to the passion and wonder I am so ineptly trying to express.
Grace Symmetry is collaboration between Ballet BC and Turning Point Ensemble. The program looks quite short on paper, three pieces with two intermissions and a full running time of less than two hours. But you will have lived in those 90 minutes. Possibly more than you have yet this year.
I had the pleasure of attending last night’s performance with a friend who also loves Ballet BC and two guy friends who have never before attended any type of ballet in their lives. It was so exciting to hear their thoughts over drinks afterwards, the enthusiasm of the ballet-virgins running as high and full of awe and wonder as that of my ballet-veteran friend and myself, who is somewhere in the middle. And this is the power of really good contemporary ballet, you don’t need any context or education or previous experience with the art-form to enjoy it, it is a definitively human experience.
Something I really appreciated about the arrangement of Grace Symmetry was the cohesiveness of the piece. The three completely different choreographers, compositions and narratives all felt connected, this so seldom happens. There was an ambient and thematic through-line that bound the work together, and a build in intensity not only in each piece, but over the evening as a whole.
A few impressions organized roughly by piece:
- This is pure relationship storytelling.
- Mood can be transformed in an instant with the music, lighting and presence of the dancers.
- I love silence, breath and whispers while dancing. At one point the silence was so complete when a sudden change happened on stage I heard the audience breathe in, all at once!
In Motion: choreographed by Wen Wei Wang, music by Owen Underhill
- The Turning Point Ensemble were on stage for this piece, atmospherically lit, sometimes even interacting with the dancers.
- Shadows dancing over muscles, creating body landscapes ever changing.
- Dancers making eye contact, exchanging a look, sharing concentration, is captivating, even from the back of the auditorium.
- You can SEE the impulse move from one body to another, like a live thing.
- In certain parts, each dancer had their own instrument or melody line to follow their movements (or the other way around?) perfect synesthesia.
Prelude (World Premiere): choreographed by Medhi Walerski, music by Lera Auerbach
- In our post-show discussion Prelude was the undisputed favourite.
- Musical accompaniment was just a piano and violin in the orchestra pit, very intimate, personal, stirring.
- Lots of juxtaposition between the individual and the crowd, existential isolation, chaos and order, a single spotlight on a lone dancer, a reaching out, an engulfing stampede. . .
- It was like people watching but for all of humanity, a definite sense of witnessing, the self or others.
- The relaxation of one muscle in a dancer can change the entire meaning of a pose - how specific!
- At one point, when a dancer was still and alone on stage, you could see his breath in his stomach, he was breathing in time to the music!
Here on End (World Premiere): choreography by Kevin O’Day, music by John King
- The whole orchestra played in the pit, almost more like a soundscape at times.
- If the last piece was about loneliness, this one was about industry, Orwellian, sinister and at times both mechanical and creature-like.
- The use of smoke and lighting was incredible, dancers literally appearing and disappearing in the shadows.
- I am struck by the high level of trust these dancers must have with one another, watching them run or fall or jump backwards and sideways, without looking, knowing their partner will be also running or jumping to be in exactly the right place at the right time.
- I was overcome, overstimulated, swept up by the chaos and the emotion and momentum.
Finally, a snippet of conversation that I felt summed up the evening perfectly:
“This ballet feels so primal, it’s like the material by-passed my brain, reached into my guts and stirred things about.”
“Yes! Not needing words they instead go: That thing you’re feeling? It looks something like this...“