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Alberta Ballet Celebrates End of 50th Season and Canada 150

Theatre Review by Lisa Lunney (From GayCalgary® Magazine, May 2017, page 12)
Alberta Ballet Celebrates End of 50th Season and Canada 150

Our Canada, is a legacy ballet, both honouring and celebrating the history of Canada, set to the sounds of one of the country’s greats--Gordon Lightfoot.

"Our Canada is a multidisciplinary sensation hailing our home, our geography, our great diversity and our empowered collective spirit. As much as this ballet celebrates our nation, I also think it’s an honest look at both the high and low points of our national story," said Artistic Director Jean Grand-Maître.

The set showcases Canada as a house mosaic, a three-sided room with three oversized doors. Images of different cities, landscapes and seasons within Canada were projected onto the ‘house’ throughout show’s twenty-two numbers. The set and imagery were stunning, pulling the audience further under Lightfoot’s lyrical spell.

Opening to an archival montage and overview of Canadian history, we realize, just how far this nation has truly come. The horrors seen before us, the trials past generations endured just so we can live as freely as we do today. It is a lot to take in.

Grand-Maître did an excellent job of spreading the emotional weight of Lightfoot’s poetry. Some choices were heavy, and heartbreaking; whilst other choices were fun and fantastic. Grand-Maître’s song selections showcased Lightfoot’s beautiful high range, unmistakable tone and signature poetic utterance.

Seven Island Suite was one of the most memorable, lighter performances. Featuring seven swaying ’60s hippies in rich Autumnal images. Choreography captured the essence of free-love era imagery using a freedom of movement to symbolize the "fiery autumn haze."

The numbers chosen for Our Canada reflect on freedom, love and loss—the fuel that keeps our world spinning. Despite having included some of Lightfoot’s most heartbreaking songs, including: Affair On 8th Ave, The Last Time I Saw Her and the gut-wrenching If You Could Read My Mind the performances always had a positive feel. The movements were consistently fluid, under the spell of a showcase of the grand skillset we have come to expect from the Alberta Ballet, the sadness became something of beauty. To be rejoiced in.

Each song was paired with dynamic movements and colourful backdrops. The Canadian Railway elicited roaring applause when the dancers appeared behind a screen, swinging spike hammers, demonstrating the gruelling labour of building the national railway.

The most visually stunning and powerful performance was The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. This story was shown so eloquently, cast in images of stormy Lake Superior waters; they danced, snapping wires while wearing lifejackets in the midst of a brutal storm. Never did I think I would witness a ballet performance that brought such a scene to life.

A fun addition to Our Canada, a celebration of the prairies—Round Dancers came out for The Auctioneer. Dressed in traditional bright dresses, some even donning the Canadian flag, both audience and dancers clapped and stomped.

The project was pure heart. Having seen dozens of Albert Ballet performances, not a single other performance struck as deep an emotional chord. The dancers set out to honour Canada, and with standing ovations after each performance, they did more than just honour.

Our Canada tells the story of our past, and hopes for the future. The 50th season couldn’t have ended on a higher note. This poetic daydream is a ballet that won’t easily be outdone.

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Contributor Lisa Lunney |

Locale Edmonton | Calgary |

Topic Alberta Ballet |Theatre |


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