Alberta Ballet offers subscribers a ballet master class with its 2018/2019 series
If ever there was a season to discover dance with Alberta Ballet, this might be it. The 2018/2019 series was recently announced by Artistic Director Jean Grand- Maître and looks to be a master class in all things dance – from lavish classics pulled straight from the ballet canon to Grand-Maître’s beloved dance portraits of Canadian icons. Grand-Maître even delves into experimental territory with avant-garde work from some of the country’s top choreographers.
“We are creating works of great classical purity to the most avant-garde. It’s about offering audiences a wide variety of eclectic repertoire with excellence in everything we do,” says Grand-Maître of the series.
How better to showcase the technical prowess of a ballet company than with one of ballet’s crowning jewels: The Sleeping Beauty. “This is the ballet by which ballet companies measure themselves,” confirms Grand-Maître. Lavishly adorned sets, and tutus complement a sweepingly romantic Tchaikovsky score. Choreographer Christopher Anderson also draws from Marius Petipa’s original Sleeping Beauty choreography for his own interpretation.
This, then, is epitome of classical ballet.
Equally thrilling will be the Alberta premiere of Bruce Wells’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of Wells’ signature pieces and certainly one of his most beloved. The ballet is a master class in storytelling – a pared down version of Shakespeare’s original play. Wells places Oberon and Titania’s love story front and centre, with comedic appearances from the mischievous sylph Puck as he pulls the puppet strings.
“This is one of the most successful of translations of Shakespeare for the ballet, and it’s set to a gorgeous score by Mendelson,” gushes Grand-Maître.
The 2018/2019 season will also mark the 10th anniversary of Alberta Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Lauded by many as one of the finest interpretations of this holiday classic, Edmund Stripe sets his version smack-dab in the centre of Imperial Russia. He sticks close to Tchaikovsky’s score as we follow child heroine Klara in her quest to save Christmas. The choreography is precise and classical. Return viewers should keep an eye out for choreographic flourishes and guest appearances to mark the productions’s anniversary.
Those familiar with Grand-Maître will know he’s known for his ballet portraits of Canadian musical icons.Ten years after its original premiere, Grand-Maître will remount his first-ever portrait. Joni Mitchell’s The Fiddle & Drum is the result of a two-year collaboration between Grand-Maître and Joni Mitchell. The ballet is set to 15 original Joni Mitchell tracks, four of which were written expressly for the ballet. Sets and costumes were also designed by the Canadian songstress. Principal dancer Kelley McKinlay will reprise his role 10 years after dancing in the original.
The season will open with an ode to another famous Canadian icon, Leonard Cohen. The Ballets Jazz de Montreal will perform Dance Me before leaving the country to tour it internationally. The production is non-linear and features the work of three distinct choreographers set to Cohen’s original tracks.
“This is a sensuous, dynamic, and poetic take on Leonard Cohen with dancers who are – quite frankly – extraordinary,” says Grand-Maitre.
Alberta Ballet will also explore the innovative this season with two triple-bills. de.Vi.ate, will feature the Alberta premiere of Grand-Maître’s own Caelestis, a ballet commissioned by the National Arts Centre for Canada’s Sequiscentennial. Through dynamic and explosive choreography, Grand-Maître explores the tension between nature and technology. The score earned the ballet’s composer, Andrew Staniland, a JUNO nomination.
Seasoned ballet lovers will also be excited to see a contemporary piece by Alberta Ballet Associate Artistic Director Christopher Anderson, who cut his teeth earlier last year on his first full-length ballet (Cinderella). The triple-bill will feature a cutting-edge piece by choreographer Wen Wei Wang, who draws inspiration from video game music and art for his piece FutureLand.
The other triple-bill comes to Alberta from Ballet BC, a company known for its dynamic and muscular style. “Their dancers come out on stage like a bunch of lions – they’re athletic and daring,” says Grand-Maître. They will perform contemporary pieces from some of Canada’s top choreographers: Olivier Award-winning Crystal Pite, dance titan William Forsythe and Medhi Walerski.
“We don’t just want to nourish audiences who come to see what they already know – we’d rather they go home having seen something they never imagined possible,” muses Grand-Maître, of the Alberta Ballet’s 2018/2019 series.
This season’s mix of classical ballets, pop cultural works and boundary-pushing contemporary pieces acknowledges ballet’s foundations then brings it out into the fresh air. For subscribers, this means being treated to a sweeping survey of ballet’s history, and a view of what’s on the horizon. It’s a season that’s sure to hold its fair share of surprises for all.