>light-time-open space by les ballets jazz de montreal

>reviewed by ma shaoling

>date: 26 nov 2001
>time: 8pm
>venue: kallang theatre
>rating: ***1/2

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal since its inception in the early 1970s, has been able to establish itself on the international dance scene with a not uncommon repertoire of neo-classical dance grounded in ballet and nourished by other currents of contemporary art. But what sets this company apart, in the words of Andree Martin (Le Devoir), is that their primary objective "is not to portray the existential anguish of human beings but
rather to show the body, pay homage to the splendour of its mechanism, of its strength and sensuality". The troupe of 12 dancers indeed proved to us on Monday night, that dance is for dance's sake.

LIGHT-TIME-OPEN SPACE showcased 6 pieces of varying themes, each having no plot as such, all sharing the stage in simple lighting and costume. The strengths of the corps de ballet, however, seemed really to shine through only towards the end, especially in 'No Strings Attached' that managed to bring the audience to a near frenzy.

The first number 'Two dances for Jane' provided a slow but interesting opening with an unusual pas de deux that functioned almost like a solo. The male dancer, Louis Robitaille, who is the artistic director for the company, stood with his back facing the audience while his female partner, Cherice Barton engages absorbingly in her own energetic moves. The second part of the dance saw Robitaille remaining the passive partner, as Baron continued furtively to draw him in, only to see Robitaille walk nonchalantly across the stage.

>>' And as the audiences themselves tapped to the jazzy beats, one of course realises that there can
be no limits ... to enjoyment such as this

The mood then transited to the deep vocals recorded by Etta James, and this second piece titled 'Excerpts from Blue Until June' was performed separately by eight dancers. A female dancer started onstage, and at other times was joined by other dancers in groups or in pas de deuxs. It is easy to notice the remarkable musicality of all the dancers, who interpreted each blues tune accurately and manipulated it to their
individual physical presentations. Worth mentioning is the last excerpt
featuring a soulful and romantic pas de deux, that worked well with seamless co-ordination and graceful lifts.

The following number 'Sous le rythme, je...' appeared full of potential as
five male dancers emerged from white sheets and executed sharp movements in sequence. The lights then shone on a mezzanine platform where five female dancers dressed in stately robes each played a percussion instrument that seemed to dictate the movements. It was interesting for the dancers themselves to be creating the music onstage and simultaneously interpreting it with their bodies. However, the male corps de ballet lacked the sharp acuity and tightness that would have made this number more powerful.

The last three pieces after the intermission finally revealed in totality the speed and energy of the company. In 'Short Works', choreographed by Crystal Pite, dancers dressed in everyday street wear clearly were enjoying
each moment on stage. The choreographer coupled interesting layerings with comical acting, as two scenes featured an entourage of male and then female dancers simply talking and walking from one side of the stage to the other. While each short work did achieve its impact of artistic spontaneity, thus keeping the audiences in anticipation, the abrupt transitions in between left the entire dance a bit incoherent at times.

The fifth number titled 'clin d'oeil', which means "a wink" in English, was indeed performed in a flash as its title aptly suggests. Robert Rubinger managed in barely five minutes a solo piece that showcased flexibility and confidence, pushing his body to the limits akin to breakdancing. As short as this piece was, it indeed represented the scope of talents that the Canadian company has - to have such a versatility that all modern dance companies envy.

Finally, the show closed with the heart-stopping 'No Strings Attached', choreographed by Mia Michaels, a recipient of the Dance Educators of America's "President Cup", and for best choreography at the Jazz Dance World Congress. Not surprisingly, this piece is the company's oldest in the entire programme. Every move and nuance was executed to perfection by the group of seven dancers. Once again dressed in comfortable street wear, and continuing the easy and up front relationship with their audiences, the dancers did not once slow down their jazz tempos. Dancing to the infectious original funk-jazz score composed by Albert Sterling Menendez, the artists at times gathered in groups, and at other times partnered one another for lifts and jumps. The intense characterisation of each individual dancer was revealed through his or her expression, and of course in the pure technical virtuosity that fused both balletic arabesques with modern pirouettes and high kicks.

All in all, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal provided an evening of dance that did not once fear to push itself to the limits. And as the audiences themselves tapped their feet to the jazzy beats, one of course realised that there can be no limits, after all, to enjoyment such as this.