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Needed – a little help in the matchmaking department

In the world of great ballet, forbidden love is one of its most enduring themes

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Saturday, Apr 12, 2014 06:00 am

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  • ST. ALBERT TALENT – Lauren O'Kell, born and bred here in St. Albert and former student of the Art of Dance, is performing in Carmen.
    ST. ALBERT TALENT – Lauren O'Kell, born and bred here in St. Albert and former student of the Art of Dance, is performing in Carmen.
    APRIL BARTLETT/St. Albert Gazette
  • POWERFUL – Citie Ballet is staging Paquita Vs. Carmen at the Univeristy of Alberta Timms Centre on April 12 and 13.
    POWERFUL – Citie Ballet is staging Paquita Vs. Carmen at the Univeristy of Alberta Timms Centre on April 12 and 13.

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Preview

Paquita Vs. Carmen
Saturday, April 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 13 at 2:30 p.m.
University of Alberta Timms Centre for the Arts
87 Ave. and 112 St.
Tickets: $15 to $35 Call 780-420-1757 or online at tixonthesquare.ca

Dial 911 for eHarmony. Needed – a little help in the matchmaking department.

In the world of great ballet, forbidden love is one of its most enduring themes. Unfortunately, with a mix of intrigue, crime, magic and death, things always go wrong for at least one of the lovers.

For its season closer Citie Ballet provides three interpretations of love. Opening tonight at the Timms Centre for the Arts for a two-day run, Paquita Vs. Carmen reveals the epic forces of fate in scenes from Paquita, Carmen and Maria.

Carmen, the most broadly recognized, is in large part due to the success of George Bizet’s 1875 operatic version. French writer Prosper Merimée originally published the Carmen novella in 1845. At the time, the book was considered shocking in its portrait of a promiscuous femme fatale.

Veering away from Bizet’s interpretation, artistic director Francoise Chevennement reread the original novella to rediscover Carmen, a gypsy, a fortuneteller, a thief and a sensuous woman.

Chevennement’s original choreography retains the classical technique while injecting flamenco flair. It is set to Peter Breiner’s Carmen Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra.

In the plot, Don Jose, a hardworking Spanish soldier first meets Carmen after she has murdered a coworker. He arrests her. On the way to prison, she uses her charms to seduce him.

Don Jose allows raging hormones to overtake good judgment and Carmen escapes. In doing so, he too becomes an outlaw. Fearful for his life, he decides to leave Spain. The dispirited ex-soldier asks Carmen to accompany him, but she refuses. In a fit of jealousy and rage he murders her.

What is unique to Chevennement’s interpretation is that Carmen has four aspects played by an equal number of dancers.

“When I read the book of Prosper Merimée, you could see the four different characters of Carmen. You see the innocent person, the murderer, the tease and the femme fatale. I wanted to give the ballet a personal touch. I believe in every single woman, there is a Carmen. It’s more like an homage to femininity,” says Chevennement.

Lauren O’Kell, a former student at the Art of Dance and now a permanent member of Citie, dances Carmen as the innocent.

“I show a side of her that is gentle and soft, and there’s more acting involved in this role,” O’Kell says. In addition, she dances ensemble roles in Paquita and Maria.

“This one (Carmen) really speaks out to me. The energy is more together. There’s more dancing and as a story dance it pulls everyone together.”

Paquita is also a gypsy girl who falls in love with Lucien d’Hervilly, a young French officer. Abducted by gypsies as a baby, Paquita is unaware she is of noble blood.

She saves the life of d’Hervilly, the target of the Spanish governor who arranges to have him killed by a gypsy chief. Through a medallion, Paquita discovers she is of noble birth and d’Hervilly’s cousin. As such their love-match is secure.

“Paquita is in the classical repertory and is one of the most famous pieces performed by every single company in the world,” Chevennement noted.

The company will perform only the final portion of the ballet that includes la grand pas and a celebration-wedding dance. Although a small dance, O’Kell stated it holds its own challenges.

“You always need your feet en pointe and turned out. It’s very technical, but you have to make it look easy.”

As part of the corps of dancers, she performs a solo cupid variation, “a series of very quirky, very jumpy, very energetic steps. It’s like a reminder of spring.”

Sandwiched in between Carmen and Paquita is Maria, a choreography created by resident choreographer Solveig Groenland.

“After 11 years with us, she is moving on. In recognition of her work we are taking this from an excerpt from An Evening with Chopin. Maria was one of his loves, but it was an impossible love. Their parents did not agree to a love match,” Chevennement explained.

“The choreography is contemporary and is an homage to the beauty of the lady. It is danced to Chopin’s Nocturne.”

Citie Ballet’s slogan is Art That Moves and this program is in full motion.

“It’s a family show and a mixed program. It goes from classical to contemporary into neoclassical and the cherry on top is the strong ballet.”


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