Demo Reel for “ruin/time”
Duet for 2 dancers
Duration: 9:30 (approx)
Music: David Lang “pierced”
Originally choreographed for The Alberta Ballet “Up Close” series
Premiered at One Yellow Rabbit’s “High Performance Rodeo”
Revived for “Up Close” with the Brian Webb Dance Company, Edmonton
Original Casts: Kelley McKinlay, Tara Williamson, David Neal and Reilley Bell
“ruin/time” was originally conceived as the central duet in a larger piece using more of composer David Lang’s music. With time and performance constraints it was reduced to just a duet for 2 dancers, extending over almost 10 minutes. Due to injuries, dancer David Neal was unable to perform so Kelley McKinlay performed with both Reilley Bell and Tara Williamson.
Mr. Lang’s “pierced” is a piece of music I found myself listening to again and again. Dark and pounding, with seemingly random textural variations intertwining violin and percussion, I struggled trying to find a consistent rhythm or structure upon which to hang movement. During initial experiments on my own body, I found myself drifting rhythmically through the work catching different sonic landmarks, but almost always arriving at the same place, seemingly by chance. When I began working with the dancers, I encouraged them to do the same, leaving behind the usual structures of counting and easily recognizable beginnings and ends. This did not come easily to the ballet trained dancers I had, but allowed us to leave behind a lot of clichéd movements that one usually struggles to get past. Eventually they found themselves always in the same place at approximately the same time musically and in doing so began to feel the music as an entirety, and exist within this sonic space without need for rigid structure.
I began with challenging the dancers to move in bursts, opposing limbs, muscle groups and physical locations in ways that seemed to twist and collapse against their musculature…enduring this process and finding balance within the collapse, structure within the seeming lack of organization and almost fighting their way through the choreography created a lovely sense of constant destruction and re-birth that echoed the music. The woman’s movements are no less powerful or demanding than the man’s, leaving behind the usual male/female dynamic and creating a duet of shifting power struggles and dominance. As is usual, I was asked to name the work early in the process, well before the work had emerged and taken on a life of its own. However the words “ruin” and “time” seemed to fit, if only in an abstract way, so I left well enough alone.
With the fantastic dancing of Kelley McKinlay, a dancer of extreme presence and unhesitating commitment, Reilley Bell’s hyper-mobility and elegance so turned, and Tara Williamsons raw power and beauty the work emerged forthwith and as the best works do, became something separate from the choreographer, but better for all the artists involved in its creation.
“Ruin/time is a contemporary ballet that will have you struggling to feel calm (a feeling which gets you excited to see where the story will take you from start to finish) as you watch the two dancers before you engage in what seems like a disastrous yet co-dependant relationship, which can fall apart at any given moment—it’s just a matter of when or a matter of time. Alexandrous Ballard creates a disturbingly fascinating world where time is heightened and every moment seems crucial as well as necessary, as shadows elongate on the stage walls and colours of blood red, black, and flashes of white light moves you through each phase of this story of “…an artifact, building, or society [descending] into ruin.” But by the end of this performance danced brilliantly by Kelley McKinlay and Reilley Bell, you realize that the director and the dancers have left you with a work of art that as you walk away from the theatre, still resonates with you long after the show is done.”
‘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.