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Pop ballet Fumbles Towards Ecstasy

Alberta Ballet teams up with pop icon Sarah McLachlan for spiritual tale about woman

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 06:00 am

The Alberta Ballet has partnered with Canadian musician Sarah McLachlan for Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, the company's latest pop-infused ballet.
The Alberta Ballet has partnered with Canadian musician Sarah McLachlan for Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, the company's latest pop-infused ballet.
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Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
Alberta Ballet
May 12 to 14
Jubilee Auditorium
11455 - 87 Ave.
Tickets: $42 to $102. Call 428-6839 or purchase online at

Pop ballet is the new currency of the dance world, and Alberta Ballet is leading the national charge in redefining and re-energizing an entire ballet aesthetic.

Following on the heels of the glowing world premiere of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy in Calgary last week, this 90-minute pop ballet debuts locally at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium from May 12 to 14.

Masterminded by company artistic director and choreographer Jean Grand-Maitre, the ballet seeks to capture the emotional and spiritual journey of women through the music of Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan.

“It describes the transformation of woman as she discovers herself through innocence, impetuous youth, first love, betrayal, finding a man of true love, his death and the sisterhood of how women bond to endure anything,” says Grand-Maitre.

Using traditional dance vocabulary with women en pointe, Grand-Maitre has had enormous success with his previous two pop ventures. First there was the Joni Mitchell-based The Fiddle and The Drum in 2007 followed by last season’s massive hit, Love Lies Bleeding, a choreography motivated by Elton John’s music.

These experimental pop-infused works sell seats, keep coffers flowing and attract new audiences all the while securing an international spotlight as an innovative company.

“Working with artists such as Joni Mitchell, Elton John and Sarah McLachlan gives us confidence and the energy to surpass ourselves. It all started with Joni. She trusted us and it brought Elton John and now Sarah.”

Grand-Maitre first ran in to McLachlan at the 2010 Olympic opening ceremonies. He was showcasing his choreography. She was performing. “It was serendipity.”

McLachlan had seen The Fiddle and The Drum, and when Grand-Maitre proposed a collaboration, the Vancouver-based singer jumped in with both feet.

But immediately after the Olympics, McLachlan started a world tour for the release of Laws of Illusion, her first studio album in seven years. It was not until five months later that the duo met for a three-hour personal discourse where Grand-Maitre peppered the Grammy Award-winning singer with 100 questions.

“She was so open and she shared so much intimate knowledge of her poetry.”

The result is a woman’s odyssey that begins with a young girl leafing through a book that unfolds as a semi-abstract narrative told through 17 different songs.

Various principal dancers portray the different stages of the woman’s life. Former St. Albert dancer, Galien Johnston, plays the mature woman in a fluid pas de deux with Kelly McKinlay.

“Galien’s woman finds true love, loses it and must accept life for what it is. It is the most dramatic role and it needed the most experienced dancer,” Grand-Maitre explains.

It is also Johnston’s swan song as she retires from the stage. “It’s a bizarre dichotomy since she’s leaving. It’s her goodbye role and it’s about letting go which is also part of Galien’s life.”

Johnston’s two-year-old daughter, Mae, joins the cast for the finale. And on Saturday night after the closing performance, Alberta Ballet hosts a special dedication to the retiring ballerina.


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