PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and Ballet BC

Dates and Venue 24 - 26 January 2013, 8pm | Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Programme Herman Schmerman choreography by William Forsythe; 1st Flash choreography by Jorma Elo; Petite Ceremonie choreography by Medhi Walersk

Reviewer Nancie Ottem

“Fun but not frivolous, the new Ballet BC is physically rigorous, dramatically solid and truly contemporary,” so states Dance Magazine in its selection of Ballet BC as one of its “25 to watch.”

Physically rigorous, dramatically solid and truly contemporary is a spot on description for the opening performance of Ballet BC’s Encore on Thursday night. The dancers gave a performance that was absolutely riveting to watch. It was fast paced in William Forsythe’s Herman Schmerman, intellectually engaging in Jorma Elo’s 1st Flash and upbeat and playful in Medhi Walerski’s Petite Ceremonie.

As part of PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, Encore stretches the envelope of contemporary dance. One could sense the excitement of the evening that lay ahead in the opening remarks by Emily Molnar, Ballet BC’s artistic director. There is a tangible energy surrounding this company which was very evident in the dancer’s delivery of their program on Thursday evening.

William Forsythe’s work has been performed many times by Ballet BC. Herman Schmerman is a fast paced piece, full of energy and tension. The dancers danced on pointe, throwing their bodies in arched, tense, full extension into the air. It was as if they were dancing on a sprung piano keyboard.

With dancers costumed in black leotards designed by Forsythe and Gianni Versace and set against a white backdrop, one became completely mesmerized by the effect of the tempo, the power of the movement and the tremendous effort that the piece required. The duet performed within Herman Schmerman by Makaila Wallace and Gilbert Small was an effective contrast to the quintet portion of the piece. Wallace and Small were well matched in size and body type. They brought an intimacy to their movements that was breathtaking to watch.

1st Flash was performed after the intermission. Danced to music by Jean Sibelius, Violin Concerto in D minor, this piece started in darkness with a small shard of light glowing at the side of the stage. The very complicated series of movements in 1st Flash are danced against music that haunts and uplifts. Light and the absence of it, plays a very important part in 1st Flash. The dancers are perfectly in sync with the music and themselves as they flit in and out of pools of light or work in the shadows of the light.

The demands of 1st Flash were met with a precision of timing and a control of movement that was extraordinary.

The evening ended on a playful note. Petite Ceremonie, choreographed by Medhi Walerski, with music selections by Mozart, Puccini, Rogers and Hart and Vivaldi was very upbeat and innovative. From the beginning when many of the dancers came down the aisles of the theatre to reach the stage to the ending where a pyramid of dancers faced the audience, this piece challenged us to think outside of the box. Fifteen dancers performed in perfect unison, as they worked through the demanding choreography.

The concluding pose of Petite Ceremonie seems very apropos to the accomplishments of Ballet BC.

© 2013 Nancie Ottem