Ballet BC captured Montreal in Danse Danse’s 2014-2015 season with an all-male choreographed triple bill. Now they are back with another triple, lead this time by three amazing women. Emily Molnar, artistic director of Ballet BC and largely responsible for catapulting the company to its international status, presents 16 + A Room. Fellow Canadian Crystal Pite follows up with Solo Echo, a piece she originally created for Nederlands Dans Theater, and satisfying my bias as a superfan of NDT. Finally Israel’s Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s Bill closes the night. With all these winning elements together in one night, there was no excuse not to see this show.
At moments during 16 + A Room I just felt complete. The movement was unpretentious and felt somehow relevant to my millennial context: this reaching out for something bigger and beyond, a community of highly unique individuals who believe in the obviousness of strength in numbers, the techno-soundscape. A highlight was the casting choice for a specific moment when three men of very similar appearance danced as a multiplication of the same person, three iterations of himself. I could relate – I’d love to simultaneously show up as every version of myself at once, but alas, cloning isn’t there yet. The dancers’ agility was highlighted by moody, angular lighting. Someone would catch my eye, then my attention would flip to the other corner of the stage, thinking how did he do that? when someone would switch from one extreme pose to another in the blink of an eye. Special effects were created by the simple elements of speed and shadow… in our high tech world, low tech is still surprisingly badass. After the halfway point the energy faded though, and the choreography was bruised by a couple seen-and-done tricks, namely the uninspired group work and the over-exploited exploding cluster. Something exciting was just scratching at the surface with this idea of “THIS IS A BEGINNING/THIS IS NOT THE END” lingering throughout the piece. Reappearing printed signs caused the idea to fester in my mind. This is a beginning. When can you ever say a work is finished, when it’s always a jumping off point for ripple effects?
Often we seek dance for reverie, and you can find that in Solo Echo. The falling glitter backdrop easily could have been projected, but that it was real is what made us not only smile, but gasp. I lost the sense of where I was. It’s not supposed to snow indoors, and if that’s snow then how does it’s sparkle like that? Lighting the cascading particles in horizontal tunnels added another layer to the illusion, plunging me deeper into the dreamy world. In the best dreams the soundtrack is always played on the cello, I believe, as it was here, interpreted by the magical Yo-Yo Ma. This was Brandon Alley’s show, hands down. I think we don’t talk enough about a dancer’s core, and this choreography was all core power. The control Brandon displayed by rooting every movement in his center was gravity defying, like a shark through water. Paired with Gilbert Small, these two men were embodied power and grace. Only the mesmerizing duo by Nicole Ward and Peter Smida stole my attention away. They moved like twins, fully aware of the other and totally in synch, a great introduction for the second half of the piece. I can’t describe it in any other way than the dancers were like a school of fish. Forget the domino effect, they moved codependently like a single entity, flowing in and out of formations and drawing pictures of pack animals, of despair, of perseverance. It was beautiful. The crowd was loud when the curtain fell.
If I could rename Bill, the night’s final piece, I would call it F*ck you I do what I want. These are the kinds of moves, but refined, you’d see me pull in the nightclub on a night when I don’t care about expectations. A procession of mostly male dancers paraded in carnavalesque candor, one by one delivering fierce solos brimming with rebelliousness and fun. They were stripped of identifiers, everyone’s hair pulled back tight with white gel, and their bodies de-gendered by the white, second skin suits which, in my opinion, are the most perfect costumes I’ve ever seen. The focus became solely on the dancer, their masterfully honed tool and how they used it. The only cringeworthy moment was seeing Gilbert Small’s costume hadn’t been dyed to match his skin tone, as the only black dancer in the troupe. He would have stuck out either way, but dressing him in white just doesn’t seem right in this day and age. Ori Lichtik’s bumping beat, along with dark green and gold lights, provided a nightclub vibe true to this techno DJ’s roots. Mix in a little salsa, booty dancing, the robot, and belly waves and I’m sure you don’t believe me anymore when I say this is an amazing, creative piece of modern choreography. At times like these I feel the limit to which I’m able to describe dance with words. This is one piece I’d recommend you go see. As much as I enjoyed it though, I wonder if it wouldn’t be even better if the order was flipped on its head, starting the piece with the group scene and ending on the solos, building up the energy to a climax and ensuring a well-deserved maximum of applause.
Ballet BC in a word is convergence. The dancers become one. They interpret a multitude of styles with their own slick and athletic signature. Great choreographers find in them the tools to create and express new work to wide acclaim. Frankly, I’m once again impressed by this Canadian-based troupe.