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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 16, No. 8

La SCENA Express

by Crystal Chan / May 2, 2011

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Dancing to Schoenberg

by Crystal Chan

Most people do not think of a Schoenberg composition as music to dance to. But that has not dissuaded Marco Goecke, the award-winning resident choreographer of the Stuttgart and Scapino ballets and celebrated as one of the most inventive artists in his field. His choreography of Pierrot Lunaire will be presented by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal this month and is sure to be an inventive retelling of the contemporary classic. Also on the program is Goecke's staging of a pas de deux set to the finale of Stravinsky's Firebird and choreographer and director of the Wiesbaden Ballet Stephan Thoss's Searching for Home, which brings to life the music of Philip Glass.

Moon Madness

Pierrot Lunaire is the first choreography by Goecke set to Schoenberg. "I was inspired by Glen Tetley's version of Pierrot, which is being danced in Stuttgart," says Goecke. "I immediately loved the music. And the more often I heard it in rehearsals, the more I loved it."

Schoenberg's atonal melodrama sets to music twenty-one poems by Albert Giraud (in the German translation by Otto Erich Hartleben). It premiered in 1912. In the piece, a narrator recounts the tale of Pierrot in Sprechstimme (speak-singing). A commedia dell'arte figure, Pierrot never leaves the stage; the audience follows him through a three-part narrative in which he first experiences vivid fantasies about love and religion, then a violent nightmare, and finally, a return to his hometown during which he reflects on the influence of the moon on his past.

As danced, Goecke's project is a high-energy piece that creatively remixes moves from mime and boxing. It was dubbed a ballet noir by Dance Europe critic Ali Mahbouba. “In his own inimitable style,” writes Mahbouba, “Goecke wondrously succeeds in fathoming the depths of Pierrot's psyche and his moon madness.”

Glass's Hidden Dimension

A Renaissance man of dance, Stephan Thoss not only choreographed but also designed the set and costumes for his Searching for Home. It is an ode to the music of Glass in the form of an expressionist dance presented by a 16-strong troupe. The piece was first presented in October 2008 at the Staatstheater Wiesbaden. Montreal audiences won't see exactly the same production as the original, however; Thoss has made improvements to the work over the last several years, incorporating new ideas and tailoring the performance to work perfectly with the current performers and space.

Searching for Home explores the concept of self. It follows a young woman whose various personae appear as separate, often masked, figures. These ghost identities interact with each other in three magical rooms whose spatial forms are distorted by lights and mirrors. The working title of the piece was Visible Emptiness; "the title referred to the work's spatial dimension and its characters," explains Thoss.

Since hearing Glass's first violin concerto in 1996, Thoss has frequently favoured the minimalist composer; The Secret of Bluebeard, his latest dance which premiered this February, was also choreographed to the music of Glass. Searching for Home features Glass's String Quartet No. 5, Symphony No. 3, and Symphony No. 3. "Glass inspires me a lot," says Thoss. "And it remains a mystery because I cannot say 100% why. There is always a hidden dimension in Glass and this is my inspiration. A subtle link between the action of feeling and of thinking. There is something obscure, but also a clear line with an infinite dimension due to the pace and minimalist bearings. And it stimulates motility."

Performed by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal; May 12 – 21 www.grandsballets.com

Five Years for The Festival Transamériques

by Crystal Chan

The Festival TransAmériques opens the summer festival season in Montreal with 31 shows and events all across the city. Showcasing contemporary arts from around the world, the fifth edition of this festival’s impressive lineup comes to us from twelve countries, including five world premieres, ten North American premieres and four Canadian premieres.

Well-known visitors to Montreal will include Les ballets C de la B with their drag cabaret, Gardenia, and the Schaubühne, which opens the fest with a piece mingling theatre and dance named Trust.

A chance to see iconoclast Marie Brassard in a work of autobiographical fiction at Usine C and dancer Israel Galván taking contemporary flamenco to the max are not to be missed.

Theatrical offerings are diverse, spanning from a staging of the 1970 FLQ hostage-taking (Octobre 70) to a musical from the New York City Players Neutral Hotel to a hyperrealist show from Tokyo which follows the comings and goings of eight young people living in a miniscule apartment (Yume No Shiro).

Marie Béland’s Behind: Une danse dont vous êtes héros engages in an almost meta-dance, a spare arrangement of visual and sound cues which invites the audience to solve a sort of a “choreographic riddle.” Geneva’s Compagnie Creffe also presents a minimalist show with Lanx + Obvie at Agora de la Danse. Canadian darling Crystal Pite’s The You Show will be popular, and the closing performance is a must-see from New Zealand: Tempest: Without a Body.

The four free performances are Sylvain Émard’s Le continental XL, an outdoor extravaganza featuring 200 dancers; Bodies in Urban Spaces, a colourful series of human sculptures touring from the planetarium; SoleNoid, a robotics piece where spectators can choreograph eight tap dancing shoes; and La porte du non-retour, a photo exhibition on African migration.

May 26 to June 11 www.fta.qc.ca

(c) La Scena Musicale