Contemporary dance, like modern art, can be a bewildering riddle to the novice spectator. Using form and rhythm, rather than implicit narrative, it challenges the audience to engage intellectually as well as emotionally, and view scenarios through a different lens. This is certainly the case with Ballet British Columbia, Canada’s leading contemporary dance company, who are currently on their first UK tour, and performed at Birmingham Hippodrome on Friday night. Three individual works by three different female choreographers- 16+ a room, Solo Echo, and Bill – created an overall performance that was mesmerising and impressive - a true celebration of the human body’s majestic physique, and its expressiveness in dance.
Simplicity of staging – a completely black set – and meticulous lighting directed the focus entirely on the dancers. Together or individually this ensemble of 18 performers twisted and turned, ran or even slid across the stage in a manner that was both beguiling and intriguing. Undoubtedly contemporary, occasionally moments of traditional ballet - pointe work, a pirouette – would emerge as a reminder that many of these dancers were classically trained and this was the at the root of their performance.
Indeed this is the effect that their Artistic Director, Emily Molnar, is seeking to achieve – “ I wanted to create more of a definition of what it means to be contemporary with the legacy of training in ballet.” In her own choreographed work – 16 + a room – placards are transferred across the stage, from dancer to dancer, telling the audience either that “This is not the beginning” or “This is not the end”: Rather we are in some middle state, like the creativity we are watching, which belongs neither in the past nor entirely in the future. This is an attempt to go beyond the norm, and not affirm a “museum of position” - in doing so it succeeds.
Ballet BC’s UK tour continues on to The Lowry, Salford and Alhambra, Bradford. Let’s hope they are back in Birmingham before too long.
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