Peter Quanz

Rodin/Claudel - Les Grands Ballets Canadiens

Slowly getting caught up on all of my March Theatrical adventures here on the blog. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet offered this beautiful piece from choreographer Peter Quanz and danced by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens of Montreal as an "extra" for their season, and I jumped at the chance. I'm a huge fan of Quanz and was eager for the chance to see a full length work from the choreographer.

Based on the lives of French sculptors Rodin and Claudel, the piece utilized the corps  as molding clay, moving them into varying shapes and locations reminiscent of the sculptures by each artist. The sculptures, however, also had the quality of being all-seeing - they bore witness to both the successes and failures of each artist, and ultimately passed judgment when Claudel was committed.

The opening moments of the story were a touch unclear; what was actually a brotherly relationship came across as a potential lover, and the story was perhaps a bit muddy as a result of too many characters in the first group scene. That said, the very opening was absolutely stunning, and the use of space, with living backgrounds observing the actions of the two protagonists was fantastic, and the story became more clear as it focused on the pair.

Beautiful work - see it if you ever get the chance!

Q Dance presented by Royal Winnipeg Ballet at Gas Station Arts Centre

I sometimes wonder whether audiences truly realize the extreme caliber of creativity in this city. Peter Quanz' young company - Q Dance - is celebrating its first season to be presented by the RWB as part of the regular subscription. The performances this week included two of Quanz' well known pieces - Quantz by Quanz created for the Banff Arts Centre, and the ingenious Double Bounce, along with the World Premiere of his new story ballet, Murder Afoot.

Quantz by Quanz is a beautiful piece with quickly changing shapes. The challenging choreography is clearly influenced by George Balanchine in its many extensions and juxtaposed angles. The strength of the dancers shines in this piece, with Sofia Lee and Liang Xing dancing the lead roles, and a very strong ensemble supporting them. In this piece, an earlier one of Quanz, we see primarily a classical vocabulary, but the beginnings of the bending, asymetrical shapes which characterize his later work.

The second piece, danced by an enigmatic Beth Lamont with Stephan Possin, is centred around a playful idea - what if the tutu's edge were maleable, to be re-shaped every time the dancers come in contact? Lamont sparkes, and breezes through the choreography which showcases more of the Quanz obsession with unusual shapes. Possin however struggled with the challenging work - one can see quickly that the piece was choreographed on the dynamic and nearly superhuman Yosuke Mino.

The final piece, Murder Afoot, really allows Quanz sense of humour to sparkle, while using the most provocative movement vocabulary of the three pieces. Essentially created for 7 soloists, with only minimal ensemble dancing, the piece incorporated fantastic lighting and video design by Hugh Conacher, including a live feed from other parts of the theatre. Truly pushing its way into dance theatre, Quanz and Conacher's collective vision is unlike any other narrative ballet you've seen. Its sense of the theatrical was undeniable. I would have liked to see even more interplay - the moments where the video seemed to comment on the stage action had a fantastic Brechtian quality, and the piece would have been even more outstanding with this.

Overall this was a fantastic programme which not only showcased the incredible dancers, but the emerging genius that is Peter Quanz.

Steve Reich's Chamber Music - at WSO New Music Festival (Winnipeg)

Steve Reich is a name unknown to many, however his influence is heard in the music many of us listen to day to day. Considered to be a "father" of the minimalist movement in music, Reich's work has served as inspiration for countless numbers of the contemporary indie and dance music creators. He is, without exaggeration, one of the most exciting artists living and practicing today.

31 January the WSO New Music Festival featured 4 of his chamber pieces in concert, as part of their feature of Reich for this year's festival.

Opening with a performance of his piece, Clapping Music, the evening began with excitement. The piece, written for rhythms created only by 4 sets of hands, hearkens to folk music traditions such as flamenco or african drumming. As the rhythms depart from one another to syncopation, then intertwine seamlessly, the phasing of the same instrument making the same sound is almost trance-inducing.

Next, a quartet of string musicians from the WSO performed Reich's moving Different Trains. Reich is one of (if not the) first to begin experimenting with recorded sound and live sound in a musical setting, allowing the two to converse. Different trains begins with recorded sounds of America Before the War - train destinations, and a rhythmic chugging created when the recorded and live violins work together. Seamlessly, though, the trains and voice overs grow ominous, and the recordings are no longer happy destinations, but statements of fear. My 8 year old daughter attended the concert with me, and was moved to tears over the feelings of uneasiness induced by the second movement. The third movement's sounds reflect what we heard in the first, but our experience of them differs after having heard the second movement and its danger. Reich spoke in the subsequent Q & A about the desire to have rhythms change out of nowhere, and thus the role of the recorded strings. Their impact elicits a strange feeling of the impetus for change existing outside our own control, in my mind.

Next came New York Counterpoint, a clever and cheeky clarinet piece which counterpoints against several recorded saxaphones. Again here, the impact of phasing, the live mix of recorded and live sound causes an uncanny sensation of confusion in the ear, which is very satisfying.

Finally, In Tandem, which paired Reich's Double Sextet with choreography from Peter Quanz and outstanding dancers from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. With the musicians on stage, surrounding the dancers, the 3 movements of the piece truly felt like an experience of the dance and music working together. Both could exist independently, however experiencing them together brought forward a heightened experience of the two. (more on this idea from me later...things are brewing). Quanz' choreography with its broken shapes and complex detail fit impeccably with Reich's music. To be honest, I have trouble finding sufficient vocabulary to express how outstanding this piece truly was.

Some more thoughts on the performance here: Winnipeg Free Press - Review

And a bit more about Different Trains here: CBC Scene - Different Trains