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Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal

by Jennifer Wesnousky
April 22, 2007
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800
Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal's engagement at the Joyce Theatre on April 22, 2007 was divided into two separate numbers envisioned by two different choreographers. The first was Rodrigo Pederneiras' "Mapa," which gleaned its namesake from the initials of composer Marco Antonio Pena Araújo, to whom the piece paid homage. This merged balletic extensions and lines with the bouncy, hippy movements found in forms of traditional Brazilian dance. Act two's "Les Chambres de Jaques," by choreographer Aszure Barton, presented a stylistic potpourri of music and movement enacted by an eccentric cast.

"Mapa" started the show off rather slowly with a redundant, slow motion segment. This lasted much too long, inspiring restlessness among the audience. However, the piece's initial aloofness, in which the introverted dancers gazed down and inward, relating neither to one another nor the crowd, melted gradually away throughout the piece. Smiles burst onto their countenances with increasingly energetic choreography and intricate musical accents within simultaneously fun and casual, samba-like steps. A fusion of classical leaps and turns with African-inspired arms, gyrations and bopping heads completed the festive scene. In one particularly intriguing sequence, two male dancers lifted one striking soloist in interesting, unusual lifts. Her legs performing feats as diverse as midair bicycling and center splits, they inverted her repeatedly like a pendulum before dragging her doll-like body across the stage or arching her high overhead.

While their black and white patterned pants and wraparound shirts initially felt frenetic against an equally busy black and white backdrop, the entrance of additional dancers in red and burgundy hues presented pleasing visual contrast. The hound's tooth background then changed to black and red as the surreally serene music became more poppy, pulsating and electric, along with the dancers themselves. Growing sharper and more dynamic with repetitive, oscillating kicks, their sudden fall to the floor both surprised the audience and ended the piece.

As "Les Chambres de Jaques" opened the performance's second act, a mad-faced, male dancer lip-synced in the spotlight to equally unhinged French rap. With a coat but no shirt, the crazy character erupted into an agile, gymnastic feat before the entry of his comrades including corseted, frilly-skirted females and barefoot men in suspenders and vests. All, however, wore surreal expressions while embarking upon an eclectic journey of movement which interspersed slow and controlled leg extensions with arms from flailing to sharply Spanish, sudden collapses and even a pseudo-tap dance by a standout soloist. The piece's idiosyncratic soundtrack ranged from Gaelic-sounding jigs sounds to garbled rap to Middle Eastern, operatic and even tango-esque.

In addition to its assortment of choreography and music, "…Jaques" also displayed a broad emotional gamut. Although Barton's self-proclaimed intention was to "discover the human being in the dancer (and not the inverse)," the performers frequently portrayed humanity at its most creature-like, spastic and deranged. With eerie energy and expressions, the dancers engaged in such odd activities as nose-wiping, crotch-grabbing and sudden fits of laughter or shrieks. In a three couple pas de deux exploring male and female energies, the girls alternately played it aggressive and hard to get. Seducing their partners as well as the audience into their quirky cosmos, "Les Chambres de Jaques'" characters occasionally disturbed but always intrigued.

Artistic Director: Louis Robitaille

Artists:
Sharon Booth, Katherine Cowie, Tara Dyberg, Sophie-Estel Fernandez, Susan Gaudreau, James Gregg, Sara Harton, Robert Knowles, Francine Liboiron, Eric J. Miles, Drew Sanbulte, Audrey Van Herck, Youri de Wilde, Edgar Zendejas

Guest Artists:
Danielle Denichaud and Ian Robinson

MAPA

Choreography: Rodrigo Pederneiras
Music: Uakti- Marco Antonio Pena Araújo
Scenography: Fernando Velloso
Costume Design: Anne-Marie Veevaete
Lighting Design: Daniel Ranger (after Pedro Pederneiras)

Les Chambres des Jacques

Choreography: Aszure Barton
Assistant to Choreographer: Ariel Freedman
Music: Gilles Vigneault, Antonio Vivaldi, Les Yeux Noirs, the Cracow Klezmer Band, Roberto Iglesias
Costume Design: Anne-Marie Veevaete
Costume Production: Francois DeSerres
Lighting Design: Daniel Ranger
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