BWW Reviews: FOUR SEASONS and CANTATA by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal is Refreshing and Wholly Energizing

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal amazed and impressed Houston audiences with their fourth engagement in our city. Enthusiastic cheers, thunderous applause, and lengthy standing ovations greeted the company after each act in the Cullen Theatre at the Wortham Center last Friday night. In an effort to introduce Houston audiences to exciting contemporary dance makers, The Houston Ballet hosted Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal under the Artistic Direction of Gradimir Pankov and the direction of Italian choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti as part of their Cullen Series.

Mauro Bigonzetti has expertly choreographed Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal in two signature works, THE FOUR SEASONS and CANTATA. As a choreographer, his work is impressively athletic and frenetic. Movements are grand and sweeping, mixing classical ballet style with contemporary motion. While the two pieces read differently emotionally, Mauro Bigonzetti's choreography in both is exhilarating, visceral, passionate, and breathtaking. Moreover, like other artists recently seen at Houston Ballet, Mauro Bionzetti utilizes detail to great effect. His chorography includes the twitching and placement of the dancers' fingers, planned and rehearsed facial expressions, the movement and placement of the jaw, body slaps for sounds effect, the use of throaty laughs, and even dialogue and singing. Also, a signature of his seems to include the collision of one's body part into another to determine motion, such as a male's leg hitting a woman's leg and seemingly pushing it to its next position. Moreover, both ballets also seem incredibly imbued with spontaneity where movements read as more natural and less rehearsed. Watching the dancers perform the complex and alluring movements from Mauro Bigonzetti is sure to astound, move, captivate, entertain, and enlighten audiences. There is no denying that Mauro Bigonzetti's choreographic voice is one that makes bold statements and leaves lasting impressions.

Set to Antonio Vivaldi's iconic set of four violin concertos entitled Four Seasons, a cast of 20 is choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti to capture the emotional aspects of the familiar music. He perfectly reflects the austere and severe sound of the music with his use of traditional technique; however, he adeptly mixes in modern angles and movements such as men sliding across the stage into their positions, hitting the body for sound effect, and choreographing minute details as well, which heightens the emotional resonance of the piece. The piece is performed to prerecorded music, but utilizes this use of technology to play with audience expectations. For example, there are cleverly utilized moments of stillness while music plays and constant motion during every single moment when music is absent from the performance. Stand out performances from this 40 minute piece include Vanesa G.R. Montoya's stunning solo during the second movement of "Spring," Hervé Counrtain's precise control of his body in the second movement of "Fall," and the phenomenal Pointe work in the lush, romantic duet between Eline Malègue and Sam Colbey in the first movement of "Winter."

CANTATA is set to original and traditional music from southern Italy, arranged and played live by Gruppo Musicale Assurd. The piece opens with the cast of 20 grouped together with the quartet of female musicians, and every person on stage is signing. From the opening harmonious chords, the audience is instantly hooked for this thrilling 40 minute ballet. The energy of the dancers is through the roof as they soar across the stage with dance hall frenzy, erupting in Vesuvial movement. In this piece Maura Bigonzetti throws off all conventions and uses modern angular movement and striking visual details that include every inch of the dancers' bodies, such as the women biting themselves at one point. Mauro Bigonzetti was inspired by an encounter with a group of musicians from Naples and Puglia to choreograph the extremely zealous, heartfelt, physical, and unrestrained dance that evokes the culture of Italy while showcasing the differing aspects of relationships between men and women, including tantalizing attraction, fervor, bickering, suspicion, and scorn. Furthermore, this Ballet is presented in a Brechtian fashion; the dancers never depart the stage and watch the others when not dancing themselves. Stand out moments include Graziella Lorriaux and Emma Garau's Duo and the Pas de six featuring Graziella Lorriaux, Sahra Maira, Marcin Kaczorowski, Sam Colbey, Jean-Sébastien Couture, and Jérémy Galdeano.

Costume Design by Helena de Medeiros was simply fantastic. The natural elements incorporated into the costuming in FOUR SEASONS were inspired; however, her costuming for CANTATA was my favorite. The everyday, working class European costuming was colorful, interesting, and beautiful.

Light Design for FOUR SEASONS by Marc Parent was adroitly evocative for the passing of the seasons, utilizing color washes on a large cyclorama against the back of the stage. Color washes were gorgeous and evocatively utilized as well. For CANTATA, Carlo Cerri designed the lights to be starker, using simple washes of unfiltered light. Certain effects, like creating bars of white on the floor were brilliant choices to create definitions to space for certain movements.

The magnificent performances by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal were refreshing and wholly energizing. They easily send the audience out of the auditorium with huge smiles and copious amounts of material to discuss. One can only hope that Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal enjoyed dancing for Houston audiences as much as we loved seeing them. Hopefully, when they return for a fifth time to the city they can stay a longer.

For more information and tickets to upcoming performances in Houston Ballet's regular season and their Cullen Series please visit

All photos by Photo by Robert Etcheverry. Courtesy of Houston Ballet.

FOUR SEASONS Mauro Bigonzetti. Photo by Robert Etcheverry.

FOUR SEASONS Mauro Bigonzetti. Photo by Robert Etcheverry.

FOUR SEASONS Mauro Bigonzetti. Photo by Robert Etcheverry.

CANTATA by Mauro Bigonzetti. Photo by Robert Etcheverry.

CANTATA by Mauro Bigonzetti. Photo by Robert Etcheverry.

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From This Author David Clarke