Dance House presents energetic triple bill from Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal

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BJM Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal | presented by Dance House | Vancouver Playhouse | February 24-25, 2017

Louis Robitaille’s world renowned touring company Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal (BJM) returned to Vancouver after four years to present three stunning works. Always full of dynamic energy and working with innovative contemporary choreographers, BJM puts on an exciting show.

Rouge, by Brazilian choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras (of Grupo Corpo fame), began with aboriginal sounds and throat singing. The throng of dancers shuffled onto the stage with determined faces and their movement remained grounded and heavy throughout. The tribal motif was carried through their costumes — fringed beige tunics reminiscent of Pocahontas. I’m not sure if this was appropriation or simply a vague non-specific aboriginal reference — or which would be worse, but it seems that perhaps this piece could have used some sensitivity around that.  

Sounds of singing birds, waterfalls, and drums added to a vague jungle feel as the dancers engaged in light footwork and rolling through their bodies. The energy became more frenetic as war cries could be heard and the paint on their faces became more apparent. As they all laid on the stage pulsing to a visceral drum beat, they seemed to struggle to get up. Gradually they are on their feet moving increasingly faster through sequences of spins and jumps. There were a couple of sexually suggestive pas de deux sequences as well as a more sensual duet that repeated the same pulling and jumping in slow motion. The piece coalesces with fast stomping, grounded turns, and upbeat kicks, ending with the same shuffle that brought them onstage.

Israeli choreographer Itzik Galili’s Mono Lisa, was an extremely impressive, physically demanding pas de deux full of acrobatic feats and sassy pointe work. Crunching, scraping, and ripping sounds evoke an industrial environment as two bars of lights ascend to reveal the dancers. Céline Cassone and Alexander Hille had amazing chemistry as they look at each other with intense eyes and Cassone walks away, unimpressed with his display.

Hille swings her by the legs, she lifts her leg so high it seems impossible, and they dazzled us with their strength, flexibility and attitude. After a particularly impressive move, Cassone walks upstage fluffing her fiery red hair as if to say “how do you like me now?” For their finale, Hille layed on his back with his flexed feet straight up in the air and Cassone nimbly does a hand stand to flip herself backwards to balance on top of his feet. They were the stars of the evening.  

Kosmos, by Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis, began with Louis Robitaille’s idea to create a piece about hectic city life and the movement of people through city streets, but other than a couple of references to walking and crowds this may not have been clear without knowing that beforehand. Wearin all black outfits, stomping their feet and slapping their bodies, the piece takes on an ominous, futuristic tone. Ethereal music paired with broad arms and expansive turns give the piece a chaotic feel while at the same time remaining orderly with the dancers sharing the space well.

Seeming to be searching for something beyond their grasp as they walked with the determination seen on city streets, a voiceover said, “this is only the beginning.” They moved with urgency, competing for space while remaining in harmony as they morphed through various patterns. Things became increasingly aggressive and fervent as the piece came to a close with the stage covered in a static-like white light. As if we were watching a snowy TV set, we could only see blurry silhouettes of the dancers in an eerie slow motion finale that went on a bit longer than needed. 

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