Review: Ballet BC’s “Program 2″
It’s no secret that Ballet BC has infused much of their recent productions with dark imagery, and the company’s newest performance, Program 2, continues down that eerie road in the best of ways. The new, four-part mounting sees the innovative creatives at the top of their game, presenting a series of choreographic masterpieces that each have something a little bit haunting about them. Though each component was completely realized and unique in its own right, the cohesive element acting as a bonding agent for the whole production was this sinister side that the audience seemed to love and relish in.
Tonight’s show served not only a reminder of Ballet BC’s perfect marriage of art and athleticism, but also a devout commitment to the art of the actual show. Though Program 2 is a collaborative work featuring four separate choreographers, the works all complimented each other perfectly while still offering a fairly diverse smattering of entertainment.
Three brand new World Premieres graced the stage tonight, each offering wildly different artistic merits, tonal variances, and– most importantly– stylized ballet.
Lisa Gelley and Josh Martin’s Company 605 created the opening work of the evening, Anthem. The collective of performers onstage made for a sometimes crowded environment, but perhaps that was part of the point. Artists moved between worlds of unison and singularity, with interpretive themes and narratives easily found for those looking to unpack what Gelley and Martin were aiming for in this beautiful work. Perfectly accompanied with a soundtrack by Colin Stetson and Neufeld, Ballet BC were both gracious and bold in this first act, letting the choreography do the heavy lifting with minimal production elements including neutral costuming tones at the helm of Kate Burrows. Movement ranged from spastic and edgy to poised and pristine, darting back and forth with a dedication to movement that would be hard to top throughout the entire program.
Later, Swan, choreographed by Wen Wei Wang, proved itself as a stunning, flawless endeavour that had its audience breathless by the time the curtain closed. Almost mimicking a book of short stories or a concert featuring various talents, Swan is a series of shorter, separated moments connected together with music, costuming, and atmosphere. Solos by Christoph von Riedemann and Andrew Bartee bookended the piece, opening and closing the work with impressive physical prowess injected with creative flourishes and gravity defying moments. In between, a trio of duets wowed the crowd, particularly notable with Alexis Fletcher and Peter Smida’s intense push and pull that was just as gorgeous to watch as it was impressive to mentally revisit later on after its finish.
The most outsider piece of the evening came in the form of Lesley Telford’s avant garde If I were 2, a duet “inspired by the Narcissus myth [that] explores our relationships with the surfaces that relect us, both inanimate and human”, according to the evening’s program. Dancers Emily Chessa and Brandon Alley utilized the entire Queen Elizabeth stage, complimented by a large metallic reflective stage piece that helped activate the narrative and oeuvre completely. The performance managed to instill a bit of anxiety into the crowd, commanding the audience to get a bit restless and uncomfortable with the stressful-sounding spoken word soundtrack and the startling glare of the lighting design used throughout.
Production elements aside, If I were 2 was a testament to the company’s ability to focus in on a smaller group of artists and give them the license and time to command the stage with their immeasurable talent and presence. Chessa and Alley had undeniable chemistry, with their bodies sometimes wrapped up so far into the work that they became one entity.
Naturally, as all of Ballet BC’s programs feature one remounting, tonight’s return feature was Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo, which the company premiered to great acclaim in November 2015 at the Ballet BC season premiere. Pite’s Echo is so well loved and well realized that it truly deserved to be seen again (or for the first time for new audience members). Pite’s work perfectly encapsulated the tone and atmosphere of the entire evening, with work that had a foot in both beauty and darkness.
Header photograph: Ballet BC Dancers Brandon Alley and Emily Chessa in If I were 2 by Lesley Telford as part of Ballet BC’s presentation of Program 2. All photographs by Cindi Wicklund.