Post by Lisa Xu
April 20 marked the premiere of ENCOUNT3RS, a dance production that brings talent from across Canada onto one stage. The production is divided into three programs that features the new works of three talented Canadian composers accompanying the choreography of three renowned ballet companies in Canada. The show highlighted the diversity of ballet and orchestral music, and how the two interact with each other to create something beautiful.
Caelestis featuring Alberta Ballet: raw and emotional
The night starts with Caelestis, choreographed by Jean Grand-Maître and composed by Andrew Staniland. An ominous tune from the orchestra marks the start of the first movement. Semi-nude dancers take to the stage with a tribal-like dance, huddled in a circle and moving to the rhythm.
The second movement shifts the mood when woodwinds overtake the low, resonant instruments. Dancers flit about and spin with fairy-like grace to the beat of the drums. The primal gestures from the first movement resurfaces.
The tolling of a bell and a voiceover signals the third movement, and the music once again becomes eerie as chords clash. The intensity of the music is reflected in the bold movements of the dancers, as taut bodies contort and extend to fill the space. The piece finishes with a flourish as everyone collapses to the ground.
Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming featuring Ballet BC: whimsical and dramatic
A melody reminiscent of old-school blues begins the second program. Nicole Lizée, the composer of the score, gives retro music a futuristic vibe by incorporating techno sound effects using devices like turntables and stylophones.
Emily Molnar’s choreography highlights the flexibility and expressiveness of the dancers. Different dancers enter and exit the spotlight through a dramatic run. The program is characterized by exaggerated movements that use every part of the body to create asymmetrical shapes. There’s a good use of surrounding space to produce gestures at different heights and angles. The dancers’ movements are in sync with the turntable sound effects: erratic and jerky, but rhythmic as well.
The program was dynamic and entertaining, and the music was unorthodox such that it made the performance seem otherworldly.
Dark Angels featuring The National Ballet of Canada: expressive and elegant
The night’s performance ended with Dark Angels, a production featuring the collaboration between composer Kevin Lau and choreographer Guillaume Côté.
The lower strings and woodwinds interact with the booming percussion to weave a piece that is tense and stormy, accompanying the dark mood of the dance.
Different pairs take turns in the spotlight while a single figure looks from the shadows. Partners seem to be conversing with each other through their gestures, their bodies bending and bowing in harmony. There’s a kind of elegance in the movements that juxtaposes against the dramatic orchestral music. Pairs come together and dance in a group before finishing with a dramatic pose.
ENCOUNT3RS was enjoyable to watch, as each program had a unique artistic style and narrative. Composers and choreographers were able to stretch the creative boundaries of the arts, resulting in a production that was innovative and captivating. One does not need a deep knowledge of ballet or orchestral music to be able to appreciate the artistry that can be found in ENCOUNT3RS.
ENCOUNT3RS runs until April 22 at the National Arts Centre. Tickets can be bought online or at the box office.