Posted in Arts, Top Arts

CENTRE STAGE: Ballet BC closes 30th anniversary season and young talent shines in Arts Umbrella’s Expressions Festival

Program 3 presents works by Sharon Eyal, Emily Molnar, and Jorma Elo; Julius Caesar and The Drowsy Chaperone showcase the next generation of performers

Scott Fowler (centre) and the 16 other dancers featured in Bill.
Scott Fowler (centre) and the 16 other dancers featured in Bill.
Image Credits: Chris Randle

Program 3 – Ballet BC

May 12–14, Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Program 3 closes Ballet BC’s 30th anniversary season. Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo’s I and I am You and artistic director Emily Molnar’s 16 + a room are remounts first seen in 2013, and the third piece on the bill was a Canadian premiere, Bill, by choreographers Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar.

Eyal and Behar’s style is full of instinctive, animalistic energy. Bill opens with a lone dancer centre stage, clad in a full-body yellow jumpsuit and cavorting with an almost cartoon-like gaiety. Later in the piece, 16 dancers join him on stage, some of them standing in a circle and shrieking like angry birds. The choreography was pulsating and visceral, and the tight jumpsuits emphasized the statuesque figure of the human form. The piece was stunning and evocative, but the ending seemed sudden and unplanned.   

Elo’s I and I am You presented a contrast between sharp movements, to place the dancers into specific positions and more sweeping movements that produced a hopeful tone. The lightest of the three works in terms of tone, it provided balance to the other works.

Molnar’s 16+ a room, as the title suggests, involves 16 dancers and a bare stage. The music is full of dissonant pops and crackles, and the dancers are dressed in shades of black and grey. With a wink at the audience, signs reading “This is a beginning” and “This is not the end” are paraded across the stage. The cohesive thematic message of Molnar’s work was very strong, and her choreography shone most when all 16 dancers were on stage moving together with the power of a locomotive and the grace of a swan.  

Julius Caesar – Arts Umbrella

Expressions Festival

May 12, 14, 19, 21, 22, Waterfront Theatre

At just over an hour, this abridged version of Shakespeare’s classic political tragedy hit on the highlights of the play but, at times, felt rushed and lacking in depth. With a sparse stage and few props, the set design could be seen as rudimentary, but it did allow for the focus to be on the actors and their lines. The words of Shakespeare, after all, carry the play no matter the version, and these young actors brought out the relevance of this timeless story.     

While some scenes felt a bit forced, there were many moments of intense emotional connection between characters, such as a heart to heart between Brutus (Raquel Neumann) and Cassius (Bonnie Duff). It’s difficult to overcome the audience’s anticipation for seeing Caesar slaughtered and the deaths that follow, as the conspirators begin to take their own lives and each other’s. These actors delivered Shakespeare’s difficult lines with ease. I commend the senior theatre troupe for taking on this immense piece of theatre.

The Drowsy Chaperone – Arts Umbrella

Expressions Festival

May 13, 15, 17, 18, 20–22, Waterfront Theatre

Before the lights come up, we hear a voice in the dark telling us that he loves the moment of anticipation when waiting for a show to start. He explains that in those moments he usually prays for the show to be short and for the performers to stay out of the audience. Finally, we see that the voice belongs to a man sitting in his living room beside his record player. He describes his favourite musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, and when he plays the record for us his apartment fills with zany 1920s musical theatre characters.

The plot of the show is simple: a showgirl falls in love and plans to give up her career to become a wife. Her producer tries to stop the wedding, and Aldolpho, the dimwitted stock European, sleeps with the wrong woman in an attempt to woo the bride. After plenty of musical numbers the show ends with four weddings and a sugary sweet happily ever after.  

The Man in the Chair (Paterson How), provides commentary throughout the show. With great comedic instincts, I can see him easily fitting into the professional theatre world. Other stars of the show included the chaperone (played by Haley Goldin the night I saw the show). Once you get over the fact that she’s drinking while underage, her strong voice shows she is mature beyond her years. Likewise, Janet the showgirl (Abigail Holmes when I saw the show) showed off her own vocal chops, while Kitty (Katherine Matlashewski) played the ditzy wannabe showgirl perfectly. She reminded me of a young Frenchie from Grease, and I can see her fitting right into a show like that.