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Alberta Ballet's Ruby Nights

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Hello all, I have been on Ballet Talk for Dancers for the last couple of months. I have dancing children but am also a fan of ballet.

We went to Alberta Ballet's Ruby Nights last night. Rubies by Balanchine, The Winter Room by Jean Grande-Maitre, Carmina Burana by Emily Molnar. Very much enjoyed it. Wondering what others thought.

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You're joining a small but growing Alberta contingent, taoofpooh. I hope someone reports, but meanwhile, can you tell us anything more about the program. I think most of us are familiar with Rubies, but what kind of ballet is The Winter Room? Who is the composer? What kind of mood does it evoke? How were the dancers dressed?

Glad you found your way across the street to the audience site :wink: . It would be great if you took a moment to introduce yourself on our Welcome Page -- even though you made a great start at that here!

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We went to Alberta Ballet's Ruby Nights last night. Rubies by Balanchine, The Winter Room by Jean Grande-Maitre, Carmina Burana by Emily Molnar. Very much enjoyed it. Wondering what others thought.

I haven't had a chance to see the show yet. I have tickets for next weekend in Edmonton and I'm looking forward to it very much, especially now that I've read your positive reaction, taoofpooh. I'm especially curious how the new Carmina Burana turned out. I really liked Emily Molnar's Portrait of A Suspended Grace to Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater" from a couple of years ago, so I'm curious to see this new piece. What did you think of it?

I imagine many people on this forum are familiar with Rubies. I first saw The Winter Room right after Jean Grand-Maître became artistic director in 2002. He presented it along with another one of his pieces, Celestial Themes, a gorgeous piece for eight dancers (originally four) set to Thomas Tallis' "Spem in alium," which I hope Alberta Ballet will revive also. The Winter Room is set to a piece called "Kyrie" by Canadian singer Laurel MacDonald. It's a pas de deux that I call "Adam and Eve after the Fall" whenever I try to describe it. There's a striking backdrop, a withered tree that appears to have been pulled out of the ground along with its roots. The program notes put it this way: "A man and a woman meet in a desolate, icy environment and try, in their impassioned movements, to recapture the beauty and purity of Eden." That sums up the mood pretty well. Very stark, almost blinding in its whiteness, and riveting.

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I really enjoyed myself at Alberta Ballet tonight in Edmonton. The evening began with an onstage greeting from artistic director Jean Grand-Maître and guest of honour Karen Kain, followed by a short film to mark the company's 40th anniversary, featuring interviews with artistic directors past and present. (I'm fairly certain that Mikko Nissinen was incorrect when he implied that "Rubies" was the first Balanchine ballet the company acquired, under his watch, of course. "Allegro Brillante," "Donizetti Variations" and "Glinka Pas de Trois" had preceded it.)

The first ballet on the program was "Rubies." In the pas de deux Maki Matsuoka was rock solid in her balances and pirouettes, though I wish her pliés in second position had been deeper, to emphasize the difference between low, medium and high space. Understudy Christopher Gray was terrific, as always, as her partner: big movements, huge jumps, very speedy. Sandrine Cassini, new to the company, was a very aggressive "tall girl." Not being particularly tall or long-legged, she compensated with snaky arms and forceful pointes thrust into the stage like daggers.

It's been years since I'd seen Ali Pourfarrokh's "Butterfly Dream," set to music by Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich. A softly lit pas de deux for dancers in gray unitards with swirling accents, the piece is lyrical and serene, though the final lift is a little perilous, reminiscent of circus acrobatics. I admired Galien Johnston, recently arrived from the Hamburg Ballet, for her smoothness and beautifully nuanced dynamics, as well as the control with which she rolled down her pointes. Reid Bartelme matched her line well.

Grand-Maître's "The Winter Room" is a wonderful piece that conveys more metaphysical truth than most ballets. It begins with two bundled-up dancers walking through a dark, thick fog, which captures the brutality of Canadian winters perfectly. Suddenly their hats and coats fly upwards, and stage becomes blindingly white, with a dead tree hanging at the back of the stage. The dancers' white costumes are reminiscent of abbreviated burial shrouds and their attempts at big sweeping movement invariable turn withered and brittle, just like the tree. Man cannot return to Eden in his fallen state. The dancers gave it their all. Leggy Leigh Allardyce, who I thought would be cast in "Rubies," was fabulously incisive, and Kelley McKinlay was notable for his silent landings. This piece got the biggest ovation of the night.

The final work was Emily Molnar's new "Carmina Burana," which now replaces the John Butler staging in Alberta Ballet's rep. She divides the piece into three sections: Society, Tavern and Court of Love. The dancing takes place on a white oval in the center of the stage, and the choir, dressed in basic black, stands in back. There is another white oval above the stage used for video images, though I don't think these add much to the piece. In Society the dancers wear gray tanks and bottoms, skirts for the women, shorts for the men, and soft shoes. There is an Archpoet, performed by handsome Kelley McKinlay, one of the company's most popular dancers, and a Bearer of Time, danced by Jonathan Renna. Tanya Dobler, who has decided that her 14th season with Alberta Ballet will be her last, appears as the Figure of Instinct, dressed in a long-sleeved red leotard. The dancing is expansive and energetic. In Tavern, an all-male section, the dancers appear shirtless and wearing black trousers. Molnar seems to have a particular view of the way men interact. As in her "Portrait of A Suspended Grace," she depicts men as fundamentally unsympathetic to each others' distress and pain. The scene then shifts to the Court of Love, where the women, now on pointe, look like bathing beauties in their red leotards. They provide the Archpoet with the comfort and sympathy the men in the Tavern had denied him. At the end, the scene returns to Society, though it no longer seems so joyous.

Generally, I think that Molnar's ensemble dances are more interesting than her solos and duets. I was a little disappointed that the emotional climaxes between the Archpoet and the Figure of Instinct culminated in conventional kisses and embraces. I would have preferred a little more movement invention for those moments. Jonathan Renna, who had the unenviable task of dancing the biggest and loudest sections of "O Fortuna" as solos, has been given one of his best roles, with the possible exception of his Knave in Edmund Stripe's "Alice in Wonderland." Molnar uses his forcefulness and high arabesques to great effect. In the ensemble sections, Christopher Gray, Igor Chornovol and Blair Puente, who had worked with Molnar on the creation of "Portrait," and newcomer Hamilton Nieh seemed particularly attuned to her movement vocabulary. Among the women I liked sensual Laëtitia Clément, statuesque Leigh Allardyce, fluid Galien Johnston and Alexis Maragozis, who easily takes the prize as Alberta Ballet's sexiest asset. Because Pro Coro is a relatively small ensemble, and the acoustics of the Jubilee Auditorium, while improved in recent renovations, are still not great, the singing was amplified and inevitably sounded "canned." Baritone Doug MacNaughton struggled mightily with his part, and I would have preferred a soprano who sounded less matronly than Laura Whalen, but the musical shortcomings didn't detract from the excellent dancing.

Judging by the audience response, it's fair to say a good time was had by all.

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I attended the performance in Edmonton as well last night and really enjoyed the evening. I thought the company overall was at the best I have seen it in recent years and you certainly could not question last night why they have managed to reach their milestone of forty years successfully. I do have a couple of comments to make that are not about the performance specifically.

Firstly, proofread your lovely program!!! I am one of the world's worst spellers but really would you like to be a "prestigious patron" of the company and have your donation level be PIROURETTE or ALLEGERO? :clapping: There was at least one more glaring spelling mistake.

Secondly I read a "review" of last night's performance in the Edmonton Journal this morning which stated that The Winter Room "was made even more moving by the performance of Tanya Dobler, a talented artist who leaves the company this season. She'll be missed" Hmm.. maybe not that missed as The Winter Room was danced last night by Leigh Allardyce and not Tanya. The casting change was announced at the beginning of the performance. I can't think of two other dancers in the company who could be less likely to be mistaken for one another. :dry:

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Thank you for these fine reviews! The visual effects on "The Winter Room" seem striking -- and (not always the case in contemporary design) directly related to the point of the ballet. I'd like to see.

Question: does this company regularly take its programs to other locations in Canada (as, for instance, Miami does here in Florida)?

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Alberta Ballet has "dual residence," so every program is presented in both Calgary and Edmonton, which, incidentally, have an identical venue for opera/ballet/musicals, etc. (The rivalry between the two cities is very intense, and the provincial government often finds it easiest to give both cities the same thing rather than risk offense.) Every year A.B. joins forces with Ballet British Columbia to present a Nutcracker in Vancouver, Victoria and Spokane, as well as Calgary and Edmonton. It's basically Alberta Ballet's production with a few dancers from Ballet B.C., which is a smaller company dedicated to contemporary ballet.

This year Alberta Ballet also took its production of Romeo & Juliet to Vancouver and three Prairie cities, which was a first. I think the problem it faces with expanded touring is that the Royal Winnipeg Ballet has established itself so firmly as a touring company (29 cities in Canada and the USA this year) that it's hard for others to break into that limited market, though the young Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada is certainly trying. This year Alberta Ballet will finally get a national TV broadcast, which will help its national reputation, I'm sure. I'm guessing that for many people, "Alberta Ballet" is still an oxymoron.

On another note, one of the things I find interesting about Alberta Ballet's 40th-anniversary celebrations is that the history of Calgary City Ballet seems to have been expunged. The official A.B. history mentions the merger with C.C.B. in 1990 and the subsequent move to Calgary, but that's about it. Ruth Carse is listed as sole founder of the company, and the anniversary film doesn't include any interviews with people tied to the old C.C.B. You get the impression that since Alberta Ballet was the older and larger company, it basically swallowed Calgary City Ballet whole. But then Alberta Ballet's history in late 1980s was so messy that no one wants to recount the details, especially since everything worked out in the end.

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Thanks, volcano hunter. As someone who also lives in a city that is LESS than a major international center, I am full of admiration for companies like thise and the audiences which support them. Here's a Link to the Home Page for Alberta Ballet: http://www.albertaballet.com/users/folder.asp

(There have already been Links given here to some of the ballets on this current program.)

Thanks, mmded, for those examples of typos. "Allegero" sounds like a pharmaceutical product, possibly a mood elevator. I wonder what they would do with "Adagio." I am equally surprised when I find typos on a company's website, as frequently happens with one of our local companies.

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Thanks all for your input. Interesting that the Edmonton Journal mistook Leigh for Tanya, Tanya danced with Kelly in Calgary on Thurdsay night. They were dynamic and powerful. I am sad to see Tanya go, but I am looking forward to seeing more of Leigh and Kelly paired up.

Most of the reviews I have read did make mention of the video screen in Carmina as being superfluous. It will be interesting to see if there are any changes made in future stagings of the production.

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I suppose that since the video screen has been paid for, they'll probably keep it. I didn't find it distracting, but I basically ignored it. So much for trying to create a multimedia piece. I wonder what the effect was like for people sitting at orchestra level. I have always preferred to watch ballet from the balconies, so my perspective might have been different. Certainly reading opera surtitles is easier from above. I wonder if it's the same for video installations.

Who else did you see perform, taoofpooh?

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I changed my seats this year with my subscription because I was most disappointed about the "new Jubilee". I did not think the sight lines were at all improved. We are now down on the main floor, row K, Left centre and I loved it!! My son danced Fritz in Nutcracker last year and we got tickets in row L to see him and we could see every "naughty" move.

We saw Maki and Christopher in Rubies. I am not sure where Yukichi Hattori was, I have heard he is wonderful and was looking forward to seeing him perform. The Party Girls and Clara have to be very short in this years Nutcracker because he is to be one of the Princes and apparently is only 5-4!! Sadrine Cassini was the Solo Girl, very lovely.

In Butterfly Dream Galien Johnston and Reid Bartelme. Loved Galien but not a huge fan of Reid.

Tanya and Kelley in The Winter Room. I was lucky enough to see them rehearse in the studio last year!! It was amazing!!

Then Kelley as the Archpoet, Jonathan Renna and a menacing Bearer of Time and Tanya as The Figure of Instinct. It was interesting to have the choir on stage, but at times I felt the choreography was too busy.

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We saw Maki and Christopher in Rubies. I am not sure where Yukichi Hattori was, I have heard he is wonderful and was looking forward to seeing him perform. The Party Girls and Clara have to be very short in this years Nutcracker because he is to be one of the Princes and apparently is only 5-4!!

Yes, much as I admire Christopher Gray, I was sorry not to see Yukichi Hattori. When I heard he was joining Alberta Ballet I thought, wow, what a coup. A soloist of the Hamburg Ballet on whom John Neumeier had choreographed several ballets moving to Calgary to join Alberta Ballet. I suspect he would be a very good reason to revive Prodigal Son. For that ballet he wouldn't even need a short partner. A Siren taller than the Prodigal produces a very powerful theatrical effect.

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