Saturday, March 11, 2006

Les Ballets De Montreal (Playhouse Square Center)


When the Cleveland Browns football team fled the city, there was an immediate outcry and efforts were made to replace the squad. The club was reconstituted, but the level of success, at least to date, has been less than stellar.

When the Cleveland-San Jose ballet fled town, there were minor ripples of displeasure, but no great outcry. Surprisingly, in contrast to the Browns experience, the outcome has proven to be positive. With CSJB gone, the flood gates were open to smaller companies springing forth and both Dance Cleveland and Playhouse Square Foundation bringing in world class ballet companies.

On the local level Verb Ballet, recently played to a sold-out house in its Playhouse Square debut. It has developed a large and loyal following as has Groundworks Dance Theatre which also performed to sold out houses in its recent Botanical Garden performances. Point of Departure, Safmod, Inlet Dance, Antaeus Dance Company, Neos Dance Theatre, Ohio Dance Theatre, and Ohio Ballet are all alive and well.

On the professional level, world class dance companies continue to appear in Playhouse Square venues. The Kirov Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Miami Ballet, Les Ballets De Monte Carlo, Paul Taylor Dancers and Momix Dance Theatre have all made successful visits to the city. There have also been some less than successful performances such as the Pennsylvania Ballet’s walking through ‘THE NUTCRACKER’. Here is one case where we miss CSJB’s magical production of that show. But, as a whole, the world of dance is alive and well in Cleveland.

At a recent dance concert, Les Ballet de Montreal played to a sizeable audience at the Ohio theatre.

If you like your dance in little doses, Part I of Les Ballet de Montreal’s ‘THE STOLEN SHOW’ would have thrilled you. The segment consisted of 24 short pieces, each lasting from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. It was both an exhausting and exhilarating experience. The segments moved from solos to duets to the fourteen members of the company all on stage at the same time. The movements covered free form, intricate stretches, floor contortions, modern dance, gyrations, lifts, interweaving of bodies, hip hop complete with yelling and screaming, hopping, skipping, prancing, kick boxing, karate, weaving lines, traditional ballet, twitching, running and movement in place. Need stories? This wasn’t your thing. Want to see all sorts of dance in a creative and exhausting display? If so, you would have loved “Short Works: 24.”

Part II, “The Stolen Show” was delightful. That is, if you could accept that a world class ballet company was going to perform with a horde of plastic chickens that were thrown around the stage and finally performed as a kick line, and with two female dancers who performed wearing three high-heeled shoes between them. Then there were the cadre of clowns. In actuality, this was more performance art than dance, but who cares, it was fun.

An intriguing segment of Part II was watching two dancers simulate choreographing a segment of the performance before our eyes. They spoke to each other in French and English, planned, corrected, reenforced and then performed the whole piece. It was both a creative and pleasant way of introducing the audience to the world of dance development.

LES BALLETS DE MONTREAL was another of the positive dance experiences that have been presented in what might be called a realignment of the area’s dance scene.