Chutzpah! Fest 2017: Carmina Burana - Spellbound Contemporary Ballet

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Carmina Burana – Spellbound Contemporary Ballet | Chutzpah! Festival 2017 | Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre | March 4 – 6, 2017

After their memorable Chutzpah! debut last year, Italy’s Spellbound Contemporary Ballet was back for their North American premiere of Carmina Burana choreographed by Artistic Director Mauro Astolfi.

Nine dancers scramble on, over, and under a large wooden table. Some dancers lift one end of the table as others roll off. With the table standing on end, a couple of them climb up it with ease. It’s fast paced, exciting, and very creative. The dark lighting, opera music, and grey dresses with red crosses created a medieval, foreboding feeling.

Moving in a group with large, sweeping arcs, the dancers worked together as a collective to hold up one woman as if she was in a coffin. There was an urgency to all their movements that radiated from their cores, and their expansive lunges added to the sombre tone.

Sliding down tables, benches, and walls, the choreography was inventive and compelling as the dancers’ determined faces never wavered. At upstage left was a large cabinet with a few shelves, and every so often a dancer would peek out and emerge from it or retreat back into it. This added a bit of humour to the otherwise serious, melancholy piece, and the finale had all of the dancers sitting on the shelves in the cabinet.  

There were a couple of sequences that suggested confrontation and one that seemed to represent some kind of sexual violation. There was an underlying tension throughout that made things seem unpredictable. Back at the large table, they all scrambled to grab from a bowl of fruit, representing greed and gluttony. They often seemed to get carried away, lost in their movements and not completely in control.

This piece was never boring, always moving from one scene to the next with smooth transitions. Extremely talented dancers paired with brilliantly inventive choreography make this company stunning to watch.   

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