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Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal

March 22, 2013

Closer and Night Box and Harry

Reviewed March 21, 2013

NAC Theatre, Ottawa

(Repeat performance March 22, 7:30 p.m.)

Céline Cassone and Alexander Hille in "Night Box"   Céline Cassone & Alexander Hille in “Night Box”


If you witness enough contemporary dance, you’ll figure out the meaning of life. Either that or read John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Well, maybe not, that could take awhile. Just go and see Barak Marshall’s Harry, on Ottawa’s NAC Theatre stage this week as part of Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal (BJM)’s triple bill.

Professional contemporary dancers in the 2000s are tools for an array of innovative, bizarre, crazy choreographers, who are presenting some bold, fearless and deep-thinking performances in a new and impressive wave of dance creativity.

Marshall is one of those unique modern choreographers. Son of an acclaimed dancer, choreographer and musician, Marshall was born in California but moved to Israel in 1994 and soon established himself as a voice to be reckoned with on European stages. The fact that he sings classical and Middle Eastern music, has performed as a soloist with Yo-Yo Ma and the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, and studied social theory and philosophy at Harvard University are surely behind this creator’s dynamic and eloquent style.

Harry is the story of . . . uh . . . Harry. But no, it’s not really about Harry at all. It’s a wow piece of theatre in dance form, an exciting dramatization of human interaction and relationship. It’s vivacious, sensual, super energetic. It’s a party, an argue-fest, a larger-than-life clever cultural mix. The music of Tommy Dorsey, the Andrews Sisters, the Hungarian Quartet, Maria Callas, Wayne Newton and more accompany the 45-minute work. Israeli folk songs, animated Mediterranean tones, seductive Middle Eastern instrumentation and riveting American spirituals. Really? All that?

And more.

What is honour? Is our world cruel? Is life sad? What is love? Love brings us life. Life brings us death. What’s the point of it all?

Harry will tell you. Or die trying.

Harry, which premiered in France last summer, is the last of three works on the bill.

The three are so different from each other that it’s as good as seeing three shows all in one night. BJM’s artistic director Louis Robitaille has put together a perfect blend of works for this presentation, which at the very least showcases his dancers’ discipline and talent.

Night Box is another new work, created for this impressive repertory company about a year ago by the Chinese-born Canadian choreographer Wen Wei Wang. A “night” piece, performed on a stage dimly lit and shot through with piercing spots and sometimes red beams of light, Night Box clusters 13 dancers in knots, pulsing to loud, percussive rhythms like insects or machine parts. The projected black-and-white image of a city scape at night is an additional interesting element, if somewhat inconsistent, suggesting street dancing or club socializing.

Opening the evening is a 15- or 20-minute duet of disciplined grace, poise and balance by BJM darling Céline Cassone, for whom the work was designed by French choreographer Benjamin Millepied in 2006. Closer is an ideal opener for the triple bill, as it introduces the company’s training and intense physicality from the outset. Through a series of enthralling movements, Cassone and partner Alexander Hille explore the gender relationship to the reverberating yet intimate piano music of Philip Glass.


From → Contemporary

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