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Lyon Opera Ballet

April 23, 2015
Benjamin Millepied's

Benjamin Millepied’s “Sarabande,” Photograph by Michel Cavalca

Sarabande, Steptext, Tout autour

Reviewed April 22, 2015

NAC Southam Hall, Ottawa

While it fits artistic director Yorgos Loukos’s billing as “a classically trained company with a distinctly contemporary vision,” the Lyon Opera Ballet didn’t quite come through with the program it presented in Southam Hall Wednesday. Overall, somewhat of a disappointment, mostly because of the last work on the bill.

The first two of three works, both accompanied by extracts from Johann Sebastian Bach partitas and sonatas for flute and violin, showcased the company’s superb dancers.

Sarabande, choreographed by France’s relatively new Benjamin Millepied, is a seven-part work Millepied says is influenced by a solo American theatre producer/choreographer Jerome Robbins created for Mikhail Baryshnikov some 20 years ago. The delightful music, which ranges from gleeful to sombre, informs the grace of dance with its purity. Four male dancers juxtapose informal playful movement with moments of conflict and measured formality, allowing the audience to witness their strength, versatility and refinement.

Steptext, choreographed by the famous American William Forsythe, whose work has been featured in the repertoire of virtually every major ballet company in the world over the past 40 years, has lost nothing in the 30 years since it was first created. With stop-start accompaniment, on-off lighting and dancers who appear and disappear unexpectedly, Steptext is edgy and off balance. Featuring a woman in a tight-fitting red bodysuit and pointe shoes and three men in black tights and sleeveless shirts, its very simplicity forces you to consider the strength of the movement – particularly of the arms – and the powerful language of the dancers. Lines are exaggerated to maximum length. Dense in thought and punctuated with moments of awe, pauses in the choreography are like a sudden in-breath.

Last on the bill, Tout autour is a new piece created last year by French choreographer Rachid Ouramdane. The 20 dancers, clad in dull, dark, overly casual clothing, open the work by wandering vaguely around the stage to the accompaniment of single piano notes, composed by thirtysomething musician Jean-Baptiste Julien. Just an unlikely, uninteresting crowd of people. Always moving clockwise, each in their own orbit like a giant solar system controlled by an unseen gravitational pull, they begin to interact with each other somewhat randomly. The music quickens and grates. A sense of chaos reigns as if individual planets are being pulled off course. Other than brief abstract moments when the pure mass of bodies becomes a unified element – a rolling wave, a turning wheel, a blade of grass gently bending in the breeze, perhaps – the 25-minute work is tedious and passive, as if moved by unseen forces around the indistinct dancers.

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From → Contemporary

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