Les Ballet Jazz de Montréal (BJM) presented three noteworthy works, which premiered in 2012, at Mandeville Hall in San Diego, on Nov. 8, 2012. After the program, Artistic Director, Louis Robitaille participated in commentary about BJM, and indicated that his approach to vetting new works was to look at them from the perspective of the audience and listen to his gut feelings & instincts as an audience member. Bravo!
The BJM Company consists of an exceptionally fine group of young dancers that performed well in both virtuoso ensemble & solo work. Dancers included: Christina Bodie, Antonios Bougiouris, Celine Cassone, Christian Denice, Kevin Deleney, Alyssa Desmarais, Youri de Wilde, Alexandra Gherehman, Alexander Hille, Morgane Le Tiec, Andie Masazza and Brett Taylor.
Harry, choreographed by Barak Marshall, the half-program finale, was an intense & invigorating storytelling work about Harry’s struggles with conflict and human relationships. Set to a music score combining jazz, folksong, pop songs and opera, Harry alternates group sequences, trios and duets in a dazzling display of dance. Non-dance elements and props are effectively used to provide repetition, variation and unity to Harry. The recurrent use of: a stretcher, vocals by dancers, assorted pots & pans, balloons, smoke, a flag, etc., enhanced the immediacy and effectiveness of the dance. Overall, Harry provided the audience with a provocative, searing, hauntingly memorable, dance experience. There are those dance aficionados that believe storytelling is passé, and purists that believe it should be verboten to use non-dance elements in dance. Cinematography, the great collaborative art of the 20th century has changed all of the arts. The 4 hour ballet of the 1800s has has been pared to 90 minutes. Three minute songs and TV commercials have changed audience expectations and attention span. Art, to be meaningful, must speak to non-specialist people.
Zero on In, Choreographed by Cayetano Soto, is a dance duet that Cayetano says, “In zero seconds you have to get in and on with your energy and power.” The focus spotlights two admirable dancers, Céline Cassone & Kevin Delaney. Zero on In has exceptional choreography and dancing. The work exhibits a wide range of emotion, inventiveness, athletic dexterity & subtlety. The Philip Glass music accompanying Zero on in, seriously detracted from the work. Zero on in required music with the subtlety of Debussy’s La Mer and power of Prokofiev. The Glass music was well composed, might work in another dance work, but consisted of continuous rhythmic repetition, very limited emotional range and went on as one unrelieved section.
Night Box, Choreographed by Wen Wei Wang, was inspired by urban life unfolding at night; evoking the city through sounds, rhythms, music and an incessant blinking of lights; combining contemporary ballet with street dance in alternating sequences for group, trio, duet and solo. Great concept!! Night Box has inspired choreography, world class dancing, and a good mix of high-voltage music. The opening night club scene is excellently enhanced by projections which capture the mood without overpowering the dance. The second scene, a lovely duet with group accompaniment, is a smooth transition from scene one. Wen Wei Wang courageously ended Night Box with a sensitive love duet. Night Box is studded with fine moments and ideas. Between scene two and the finale, the sections have variety & power, but Night Box would be even better if more unifying elements were incorporated.
BJM, Les Ballet Jazz de Montréal, earned the received, hearty, standing ovation, at the end of the evening, highlighting the insightful leadership of Artistic Director, Louis Robitaille, the splendid Company of dancers & support personnel, and showcasing three choreographers of substance.