“I think you’re in for a royal treat,” smiled Royal Winnipeg Ballet artistic director André Lewis in his introduction to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Mixed Repertoire performance at Confederation Centre’s Homburg Theatre this past Saturday night.
After Lewis’ parting words, the curtain rose on two female dancers at the sides of the stage — who soon became four — as a bustlingly fluid dance of suspense played out before our eyes and ears for the first number of the night, In Tandem, choreographed by Peter Quantz.
It was the first time in six years that Royal Winnipeg feet had graced the Confederation Centre stage, and the jam-packed audience of dance enthusiasts was clearly starved-in-excitement for world-class ballet in a local setting.
And for those of you who may not call yourself a ballet-enthusiast, all it takes is to closely watch a highly skilled manoeuvre by a professional female or male dancer — and to be able to observe and delight in the incredible combination of skill, strength and precision it takes, for example, to jump so powerfully and land so placidly — and it can become a highly enjoyable experience even for the most, well, “monster-truck-ian” of those among us, I do believe.
The program continued in the first half with The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, a piece choreographed by William Forsythe, which was, certainly, a joyous and courtly feat of feet, I would say, complete with marvelous pointe dancing by its three beaming and prancing ballerinas (who were clad in green plant-esque tutus) and an exquisite display of über-precise pas de bourées and attitude poses.
Most definitely the highlight of the night came with the second half’s presentation of The Doorway: Scenes from Leonard Cohen, choreographed by Jorden Morris.
Four songs and one poem were featured: The Letters; Bird on a Wire; Sisters of Mercy and Hallelujah, with the poem Since You Asked from the CD Born to Breed as spoken word Cohen interview-clip introductions began each one of them and interpretive dancing began over top of this audio.
To top it off, three of these songs were performed live by B.C. recording artist Allison Crowe, seated at a grand piano to the left of the stage.
With an a cappella version of Sisters of Mercy, she sent chills up the spine as dancers in white flowing dresses illustrated each line and melody in perfect expression.
And Hallelujah, naturally the finale to the presentation, I would have to say was probably one of the most beautiful performances I have ever seen in my entire life.
Just one ballerina, clad in white, a chair and a spotlight. And the clang of the chair as she (Jo-Ann Sundermeier) pushed it to the ground at the line, “she tied you to her kitchen chair,” probably expressed most flawlessly that sense of raw emotion — in that vulnerable, affected and yet harshly enduring sense — that I have ever witnessed in a presentation of this sacred song.
They received an immediate standing ovation as the piece ended.
The night’s final piece, Pas D’Action, choreographed by Brian Macdonald, was a comedic delight — danced by one female dancer and four male dancers who displayed remarkable skill at playing the role of unskilled dancers. It was a fantastic note to usher us all home.
What a magnificent show it was. And as André Lewis indicated in his introduction, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet will be aiming to get back to its routine of bi-annual presentations in Charlottetown in the coming years. We will certainly be looking forward to that next royal treat.
And who knows? Maybe we’ll even see some “monster-truck-ians” there, hanging on every jump, next time around...
Next week: I’m off to the Holland College Welshman Community Band Concert on Nov. 19 in Charlottetown.
Todd MacLean is a local freelance writer and musician. If you have a comment or suggestion for a review, you can get in touch with him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 626-1242. But he won’t be offended if you don’t.
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