Trace, ballet BC's latest programme, is made up of three works: workwithinwork by William Forsythe, the world premiere of Lascia ch'io pianga (Let me weep) by Walter Matteini, and Petite Cérémonie by Medhi Walerski which premiered at Ballet BC in 2011. 

Petite Ceremonie © Michael Slobodian
Petite Ceremonie
© Michael Slobodian

Each choreographer works within a distinct vocabulary which tests Ballet BC's breadth and mastery in such varied conversations. As each piece casts from nine to fifteen of the company's eighteen artists, it also tests the dancers' ability to adapt from one role to the next.  

Forsythe's workwithinwork, created in 1998 for Ballett Frankfurt, was one of his latter in a string of choreographies with the classical ballet structure as its central theme. Forsythe's movement is demanding, requiring firstly, a rigour in classical ballet, then the aptitude to torque and tilt its forms and challenge its spatial orientation. work bears his trademark play in counter-balance, overly crossed épaulements, flexed hands capping arms stretched far behind the shoulders, and, throughout this piece, shoulders deliberately rotated inward.  The company handled the vocabulary with clarity and precision, showcasing work's sophisticated choreography.    

A succession of solo variations, pas de deux and grouped phrasings weave through the barren violin notes of Luciano Berio's Duetti per due violini, vol. 1. The choreographic structure recalls classical ballet composition, but, stripped of dramatic narrative and traditional embellishments, exposes the mechanisms of ballet movements and the raw energy behind the dancers' dutiful execution. Every dancer in the company tonight commanded nimbly the fluctuating momentum of the piece and shone with physical prowess, while keeping tightly with in the choreography. We see them work and that work becomes the masterpiece. 

Lascia ch'io pianga (Let me weep) that followed, by contrast, fills the stage with drama. The first scene opens with sounds of wind and clanking glass bottles, fog moving across a solo spotlight and dancers shuddering in a cold urban environment. Matteini states that the piece is "an exploration of the unconscious voice of each individual" that "invites us to reveal, without a safety net."  To musical excerpts from Verdi, Vivaldi, Bach and Handel, nine dancers move in and out of the scenes expressing various states of emotional trauma. Solos, duets and small group works are performed in isolation from one another even when sharing the stage; it created feelings of isolation, but when viewed together, combined into a loaded montage. The dancers were determined and impassioned, fighting with themselves and each other in their anguish, though their impetus was not always clear. Either the dancers' movement, or the way the choreography's material was shared seemed insufficient to articulate the complex emotional states suggested. Thus, the overt emotion seemed only to echo the piece's dramatic staging. Cutting through the clamour was dancer Gilbert Small, who anchored the piece with a firm command of his own expression and provided a beacon of clarity and coherence. 

Walerski's lively Petite Cérémonie capped off the evening. It's a light-hearted piece full of spunky energy and self-referencing humour that, of all the works in tonight's program, the dancers seemed most at ease with. It has been in the company's repertoire since Walerski created the piece in 2011; the inspiration was the concept of what life might be like inside of a box. There were eight white boxes pushed around the stage, dialogue on the differences of how men and women compartmentalize thought, and dancers breaking the fourth (invisible) wall between the stage and the pit to include interaction with the audience; otherwise, references to the box theme was inconsequential. The strongest impression is left by the dancers, who softened their usually punchy style in exchange for a more fluid precision. They captured the playfulness of the piece through the call-and-answer style of the duets and showed impeccable comedic timing.    

With Trace, Ballet BC embarks on new conversations and brings the company closer to defining its voice.  

***11