Sadler’s Wells, London
March 6, 2018
In dance company terms, Ballet BC, (as they are more widely known) founded 1986, is a new kid and bursting with youthful energy. However, current director and lead choreographer, Emily Molnar, has a sound pedigree behind her including dancing with the National Ballet of Canada and William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt. Billed as a contemporary ballet company, the 18 dancers showed the breadth of their talents in a varied triple bill.
There is no let-up on Crystal Pite’s forward trajectory as one of the planet’s most sought after choreographers. After a double nomination in the category of Best Classical Choreography at the 2017 National Dance Awards, she again shows her extraordinary gifts in Solo Echo, the beating heart at the centre of the programme. Inspired by Mark Strand’s poem, Lines for Winter, the setting and costumes are uniformly subdued although the black backcloth has a life of its own as the confetti of falling snowflakes sparkles in the lights. The work seems to mirror this dichotomy: sombre but illuminated by human compassion.
Pite knows so well how to structure and corral her dancers. Bodies ricochet off one another as they meet and part at breakneck speed and even with this small cast of seven she can construct her trademark moments of the communal body that moves and flows as a single entity. She shows a prodigious talent for juxtaposing bodies in the most unlikely formations. Witness the moment when the dancers join in a centipede formation of many arms and legs or the young woman lying on the floor and guiding the standing man’s backward footfall with such tenderness it takes your breath away.
The work is divided into two parts to movements from cello sonatas by Johannes Brahms and has a subtext of virtuosic individuals maturing into collective resolve, backgrounded on the lines of the poem. Nothing is stated explicitly but there is seldom a moment when the honesty of the movement does not hold your attention. The more I see of Pite’s work the more I stand in awe of her infinite talent.
Molnar’s 16 + a room, sets her 16 dancers in an imaginary tilting landscape and plays with the possibilities. Workaday costumes and a gritty electronic score commissioned from Dirk P Haubrich sets the uncompromising tone. The dancers, particularly the men, scored with their fierce energy and uninhibited physicality while the women used pointework in surprising and innovative ways. The novel relationship of dance styles makes an interesting mix but the gimmick of signboards signifying (or not) the beginning and the end could safely be ditched.
Sharon Eyal’s Bill, worked in collaboration with Gai Behar and composer Ori Lichtik, closed the evening on a humorous note. It drew giggles from the audience as the dancers convulsed, contracted and wriggled through her weird movement vocabulary. It is a cleverly constructed work balancing the elements of design, sound and choreography as a variety of solos, distinguished by their bizarre movements, are played out in the foreground while huddles of corps twitch to a disco beat with tight repetitive moves as a shifting backdrop.
Ballet BC wowed audiences with this programme at the International Dance Festival Birmingham two years ago and this tour gives the rest of the country a welcome introduction to the relatively little-known company, and the chance to see some fine dancers. And how good to have a programme that introduced, and identified, the dancers so clearly!
Ballet British Columbia continues on tour. Click here for dates and venues.