RWB's Leonard Cohen Ballet Success Rolls North in New Program ~ May 25
"Leonard Cohen's music comes to life at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet", CBC News reports earlier this month. After profoundly moving audiences during its world premiere run at Manitoba's Centennial Concert Hall, this weekend "The Doorway - Scenes from Leonard Cohen" rolls into Northern Manitoba for performances in: The Pas, May 25; Flin Flon, May 26; and Thompson, MB, May 27. In these communities, the Jorden Morris-choreographed "Doorway" is on a program with Peter Quanz's "In Tandem" and Brian Macdonald's "Pas D'Action".
In 1959, it was Brian Macdonald's "Les Whoops-De-Doo" that the RWB premiered in Flin Flon. And, it's another Macdonald creation, 1970's "The Shining People of Leonard Cohen", which premiered in Paris, France, that marked the first time a professional theatre or dance company produced the works of Canada's iconic songsmith on stage.
Of the "Shining People" production, cultural commentator Max Wyman notes: "That was absolutely in tune with the zeitgeist. But it was intriguing stuff as well. People loved it." (More from Wyman, and many more people on the inspiring story of the "constant phoenix" that is the RWB can be enjoyed in the award-winning documentary "40 Years of One Night Stands: The Story of Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet".)
Of the newest ballet to the words and music of Cohen, Alison Mayes of The Winnipeg Free Press recounts: "Last year, Winnipeg's Jorden Morris was asked to choreograph a pas de deux to Leonard Cohen's soulful 'Dance Me to the End of Love' for the nationally televised Genie Awards. It was so well received that the Royal Winnipeg Ballet commissioned Morris to create a longer work to songs by the legendary Cohen. The 44-year-old dancemaker, who teaches at the RWB School and created the company's hits Peter Pan and Moulin Rouge" now is opening "The Doorway".
In it, Corps de Ballet member Sophia Lee, (paired with Jaime Vargas for the Genies sensation), dances "Hallelujah" - to the voice and piano of Allison Crowe. On opening, Crowe spoke with CBC Manitoba Scene Producer Andrea Ratuski: "I feel so humbled and so grateful to be a part of this. This is such an amazing company to be able to work with and I'm just so excited. It's so beautiful to be able to watch Sophia dance -- and all the other dancers, too -- all the songs. They translate so beautifully. You can kind of see the lyrics within the dance. It's gorgeous."
RWB's Sophia Lee dances to Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" w. Allison Crowe onstage (CBC News - screen-cap)
Feelings shared by the audience. "Spine-tingling" That's how Holly Harris, dance reviewer for the Winnipeg Free Press, describes the ballet performance of "Hallelujah". Dan Aysan, owner of Winnipeg's renowned Selim's Antiques, and RWB season ticket-holder for much of 26 years posts: "Well... the Royal Winnipeg Ballet surprised me last night. Everything I had ever wanted them to do was done! They focused on the dance and not overwhelming production... and it captivated. The lighting and sound production were fantastic... but rarely did they overshadow the dancers themselves. 'Luminous' was astonishing and EXACTLY the type of work I hope the RWB considers doing more of. 'The Doorway' was a wild mix of dance, live music and spoken word that surprised me with it's depth and simplicity (how often do you get dancers' movements, Leonard Cohen's words & music with a smattering of Peter Gzowski's voice mashed up on stage ?!?)"
CHVN Radio's Adrienne Daniels attended the opening, and comments: "the triumph of this performance was Mr. Cohen himself. He wasn't there, but the RWB used audio from interviews he did regarding the songs being danced to and it gave such an incredible insight into the performance that it took it to that magical level. Where spirit and art connect and you FEEL the music. You feel it in your soul, its tangible with your hands and you can literally taste it.
"I was witness to one of the most moving spectacles of human expression that I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. My soul took flight for over 2 hours as I watched the poetic nature of the human form in motion; dancing, swaying, fighting, loving, understanding and confusing all at once."
Details of "The Doorway", "In Tandem" and "Pas D'Action" performances this weekend, (to recorded music), can be found on the RWB's site @ http://www.rwb.org