BWW Review: Montreal's Tantalizing Les Ballets Jazz De Montreal: DANCE ME, A Terpsichorean Tribute At The Broad Stage
The dancers manifested exquisite flowing lines hit, yet not lingered on, as they lyrically moved to the next count of the music ever so smoothly, sometimes creating in between that and the next beat, a separate movement, sort of a bridge from the last position and the next... an asterisk; exclamation point, if you will... or a grace note... The stunning choreography will sweep you away to the haunting, gritty, yet buoyantly hopeful lyrics of Leonard Cohen. He has such a unique style to his writings and his presentation. This extraordinary company and their Artistic Director Louis Robitaille, have taken the essence of his intent and transformed it into internal emotion and external movement, simultaneously. By that, I mean, when they dance and move, or pose, their bodies are feeling the emotion being expressed through words or music. The way this was presented, so seamlessly blending from one piece, even though separate choreographers, into the next piece on the repertoire, it just seemed a magical, visual extravaganza for both the eyes and the soul. The company received Leonard Cohen's blessing to perform this amazing tribute, and it is indeed, special and poignant. Before the performance on Friday night, February 14, 2020, Louis Robitaille spoke on stage in front of the audience about the origins and rehearsals leading up to the evenings' presentations. The company has been in existence since 1972. He has been the Artistic Director of Les Ballets Jazz De Montreal since 1998, previously studying since 1974 through scholarships and mentorships, building an impressive resume to his quest for performing lead roles, leading into his more creative position now. He has been the great motivator behind this project.
Leonard Cohen also hails from Montreal, and he is beloved and appreciated by Canadians everywhere. The profound style of Leonard Cohen's work and the plaintive and deeply-digested melodies and lyrics have been melded into dance movement and visual stories that touch us all.
To a sold-out and excited, welcoming audience, both nights I am told, the incredible dancers presented three different internationally renowned choreographers' works of art, although amazingly they flowed from one piece into the next so effortlessly. It was a continual feast for the eyes and ears. Being there was no intermission, the connections between each piece were so fluid, it gave a fantasy-like, connected quality to the entire evening.
Andonis Foniadakis, of Greece, has collaborated as a dancer and choreographer astonishingly almost everywhere on the planet. There are so many companies he has worked with, accomplishments and accolades galore, it would take a whole page to list them all. Currently he is the resident Choreographer for the Greek National Ballet.
The first gift bestowed upon us, of the evening, was Andonis's piece "Everybody Knows." The entire company is so versatile, so in tune with the material, they were flawless in their interpretation and delivery. I found myself moving with the dancers on stage, in my seat. That is not unusual for a dancer viewing a performance, but it lets you know you've been moved by what you are viewing.
Style-wise, the term "Fusion" seems to describe what the company has morphed into, as they strive to be on the cutting edge of creativity. The physicality, athleticism, ballet and modern technique, strength, agility; gymnastic, tumbling and acrobatic skills, the preciseness, the artistry, rhythmic and musical abilities, it all combines together to describe what this company does when it performs. With the initial Ideation by Louis Robitaille, the Dramaturgy and Stage Direction by Eric Jean and the excellent Music, Sound, Lighting, and Technical departments were all very innovative and enhancing and flowed smoothly together. Artists at the top of their game.
The exploration of movement as they assembled this tribute, is evident. The phenomenal, pliant dancers gave us their all: Principal Artists Celine Cassone (the vibrant lead dancer who pulled focus at all times - her electric red hair was a visual hint to focus on her physical expression of the work, and gave us the meat of the words in movement, and Yosmell Calderon (Russian born, Cuban trained) who shone brightly in his interpretation as well, and the exquisite dancers, Brandi Baker, Jeremy Coachman, Shanna Irwin, Terra Kell, Elijah Labay, Marcel Mejia, Andrew Mikhaiel, Benjamin Mitchell, Saskya Pauze-Begin, Julia Radick, Madeleine Salhany and Ermanno Sbezzo were all in complete control of the material.
The second section was choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, who has an amazing conglomeration of choreographic achievements. An award-winning choreographer in her own right, she captured the soulfulness of Mr. Cohen's words and made us feel we understood what transpired, through the words and the movement and atmosphere. The lighting and sound so enhanced the experience.
"Dance Me," the lyrics that comprised the last offering, choreographed brilliantly by an amazing protege of Matthew Bourne, Ihsan Rustem, was the tour de force behind a progression of expression from a deep place in the soul and subconscious. It is a reflective, haunting melody that lingers with us...
The beautiful technique and preciseness throughout the evening of excellence was so complimentary to Mr. Cohen's visions and words, and gave voice to his beliefs and musings.
The dancers, the lighting, the stories, the music, the choreography, the intent, all blended into a masterpiece of theatre.
The athleticism and versatility of the entire company is worth noting, as it enhances greatly the dynamics of Mr. Cohen's words, like putting accents on the most significant phrases and searing them into your soul through your senses.
There were a few interludes of non-dancing, but sung, compositions that were effectively staged and interpreted. This company can emote whether standing still or not a moment. It was a nice contrast to have a few songs interpreted from a vocal standpoint, with effective staging.
They are an extraordinary and progressive entity worth experiencing. The creativity alone is something to behold. The outstanding components: Lighting and Technical Direction by Louis Morisset, Scenography and Prop Conception (Pierre-Etienne Locas), Scenography Technical Direction (Alexandre Brunet), Musical Direction (Martin Léon), Music Conception (Alexis Dumais) and Head of Sound (Manon Meunier).
Follow this fabulous company and check their tour dates on their website: www.bjmdanse.ca,
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Photos courtesy of Marc Montplaisir, and Thierry du Bois.