Register Sunday | June 24 | 2018

Of Weddings and Stage

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens Explores Convention and Conformity

One of the most exciting Montreal dance shows of the season, Of Weddings and Stage, is currently underway at Place des Arts, courtesy of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. A couple of years ago, you may have caught Les Noces, one of the two works on the program. Even if you were lucky enough to see the piece, it's time to go back for an encore. The second work on deck is TooT, a brand new piece created especially for Les Grands. Expect explosive choreographic explorations of the dynamics underscoring the convention of weddings and marriage in Les Noces and the push and pull of trying to live up to and struggle against the demands of societal conformity in TooT.

Stijn Celis's electrifying Les Noces explores the desire and anxiety that underscore weddings.

Without doubt, Stijn Celis's version of Les Noces is a contemporary dance blockbuster that pushes Bronislava Nijinska's original 1923 Russian wedding concept into the twenty-first century. In performance, Igor Stravinsky's score remains electrifying, its impact full-throttled by Celis's ingenious yet straightforward and earthy choreography. Catherine Voeffray's exaggerated costumes animate frightfully overdone bridezillas, each one determined as hell to get her initially reluctant guy to the altar.

Celis, now artistic director of the Bern Ballet, was once a protégé of Les Grands' artistic director Grandimir Pankov, back in their days at the Ballet du Grand Théâtre of Geneva. And that company also yielded another talented alumni, Didy Veldman, a Dutch choreographer and a former dancer with one of the best contemporary troupes in the world, Britain's Rambert Dance Company.

Scenes from TooT.

TooT, for its part, is a thinly veiled statement about conformity in society, using Shostakovich's Jazz Suite no. 2 as musical inspiration. Composed in 1938, during the tough years of Stalinist purges, you might think the pressures of communism have nothing to teach us in the West now. Think again. To make her point, Veldman features a circus ringleader who barks commands through a megaphone, demanding that the dancers toe the party line. Clad all in white, with clown-like make-up on their faces, Les Grands' dancers plumb the pathos of individual desires in the face of groupthink, all the while moving with a kind of jagged languidness that breaks the heart by the end.

Ironically, for all the commentary on conformity, Les Grands is at its best when performing large ensemble pieces such as Les Noces and TooT. So, be sure to get yourself down to Place des Arts this week!

Clad all in white, with clown-like make-up on their faces, Les Grands' dancers plumb the pathos of individual desires in the face of groupthink, all the while moving with a kind of jagged languidness that breaks the heart by the end.

Looking ahead...
Finally, if you're curious to see what choreographic creativity lurks in Les Grands' ranks, be sure to attend the company's annual choreographic workshop, March 23 and 24, 8 PM, at the Cinquième salle of Place des Arts. Admission is free and on a first-come, first-served basis, but reserving tickets in advance is recommended. Reservations can be made at the reception desk, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, 4816 Rivard, near Laurier metro station (St. Joseph exit). For more information, call (514) 849-8681.

For more about Stijn Celis, check out The Dance Scene's preview and review of the choreographer's dark and psychological Cinderella, performed last season.

Of Weddings and Stage runs March 17, 18 and 19, 2005, 8 PM, Théâtre Maisonneuve, Place des Arts. Visit the Les Grands Ballet Canadiens website for more information.

Kena Herod is the dance critic for Maisonneuve Magazine. The Dance Scene appears every other Tuesday.