Robert Lepage's work with images is a part of what makes his theatrical performances so astounding; the way he understands perspective and illusion is like nothing else, so the idea of him working not just with actors, but with dancers who move in shapes and formations was obviously very exciting.
Lepage pairs up with the National Ballet of Canada's Guillaime Cote to create Frame by Frame, a mildly biographic homage to the life of Norman McLaren, the renowned film maker and animator. The piece is best when it is tied to McLaren's work, providing Cote and Lepage the tools - light and movement - to create magical pictures inspired by or re-creating McLaren's images. These scenes, which often offer a glimpse into what McLaren's perspective on the creation might have been by positioning him in relationship to the images, play on ideas of perspective and control. The most poignant for me was where the dancer playing McLaren used a paint brush to shape the movements of the dancer we saw on the screen.
The scenes that focused on McLaren's life and travel were less interesting; although the scenes about his travel to China created some beautiful imagery using a screen (which definitely foreshadowed the scene I spoke of earlier) they felt superfluous. Similarly, a couple of scenes about dance classes, which I don't doubt reflect historical accuracy of his relationship and inspiration from dancers, felt like unnecessary devices to just give the dancers in the company something to do.
Surprisingly, the music of the piece really stood out as well, with jazz in contrast to Tchaikovsky, all starkly in relationship to the synth-based sounds of his more experimental animations.
The most exciting part of the ballet, however, wasn't necessarily what I saw on stage, but the ideas that these images elicited in my own imagination, both while I was watching it and in the days since. I think it is a testament to an artist's craft that they can inspire new ideas while not detracting from those they are presenting.