Calgary Herald


“The piece dancing in the middle is Alexandrous Ballard’s Ruin Time, a charging duet featuring Reilly Bell and Kelley McKinlay.

Ruin time is described as a phenomenon in which cultural significance accumulates through the passage and weight of time. But one doesn’t really have to grasp this concept to enjoy this piece. It’s a pulsating, highly physical dance that incorporates both ballet and contemporary movement. It features Bell in a striking red top and pointe shoes, and a shirtless McKinlay.

Sandy Somer’s lighting design highlights the falling red petals against the bare stage. Ballard’s choreography is performed to David Lang’s musical composition entitled Pierced, which features throbbing violin. The duet is strong and beautiful and includes some great lifts”

Alberta Ballet presents Up Close Program
New choreographies by Alexandrous Ballard and Yukichi Hattori
Nat Christie Centre
Tuesday January 21 – Saturday January 25, 2014

Alberta Ballet’s presentation of the Up Close Program made its eagerly anticipated annual return on Tuesday night, featuring two World Première choreographies, both of which were for all-male corps. All performances this week are nearly sold out and it is small wonder: these remarkable new works by Yukichi Hattori (who last year presented his unforgettably excellent and challenging choreography ‘Dump the Physical Memory’) and dance master Alex Ballard range from the insightfully provocative to the transcendentally sublime.

To truly appreciate the creative breadth found in these pieces, I travelled to Edmonton last weekend where, hosted by Brian Webb Dance Company, these works were presented by the Up Close Program prior to its Calgary performances, and that allowed me to enjoy them still more on my second viewing Tuesday night.

Mr. Ballard’s two choreographies ‘ruin/time’ (premièred in 2013 during the High Performance Rodeo festival, which I have now seen three times) and ‘The Precise Nature of the Catastrophe’ share common thematic and choreographic elements. Both involve calamity, but whereas ‘ruin/time’ examines multiple facets of physical degradation over centuries, ‘Precise Nature’ addresses the more personal subject of erosive adversity Mr. Ballard faced during his struggle with his young daughter’s serious illness this past year.

‘ruin/time’ is a virtuoso/stamina piece set for female/male duo Reilley Bell and Kelley McKinlay, who gave yet another admirably athletic performance amid falling leaves and an appropriately pounding minimalist score, namely David Lang’s “Pierced”, set for haunting cello solo, vibraphone, strings and later on, percussion – the perfect sonic atmosphere for this intense piece. Continually presenting different sets of ever-increasingly complex poses and lifts, Ms. Bell and Mr. McKinlay collaborated successfully to represent epochal decay amid a relentless march of time, and paradoxically with seemingly ceaseless core stamina. It becomes clear after a while that Ms. Bell, frequently clutched in multiple holds by her partner throughout the work, represents the inevitable ruination and transience of all things, while Mr. McKinlay dances the immortally-locked embrace of time, and leaves scarcely any space between the intensity of his holds over his partner.

‘Precise Nature’, conversely, involved the depiction of psychological stamina through a series of panels mixing multiple dance vocabularies. Despite the fact that the work is a ‘cannibalization’ (Mr. Ballard’s word) of three previous choreographies, it is nevertheless the greater conceptual and dramatic success of Mr. Ballard’s two offerings. From the opening protagonist’s solo journey, danced by Mr. Hattori, through to the corps’ descent into darkly-hued worlds of inner ethical conflict depicted in controlled movements to Bach’s slow, throbbing solo keyboard chords found in his Italian Concerto, until the emotional final redemption when Mr. Hattori sensitively touches the hearts of his fellow dancers in benediction, the work’s narrative constructs a logical programmatic flow that is at once as beautiful as it is engaging to follow.

Yet the work’s treatment of physical conflict, whether in its use of classical language or representative movement, never strayed far from the existential nature of the ballet’s sensitive subject matter – what it is like to live with the threat of losing a close loved one, particularly a child.

In the middle sections, Mr. Hattori watched the corps as it represented the protagonist’s struggle via sets of leaps, pirouettes and difficult athletic movements, as if benumbed by pain, however his seeming detachment never detracted from the work’s bittersweet viscerality – a fitting balletic narrative of what it means to pass through a Dark Night of the Soul.