DANCE ME: Leonard Cohen set in motion — brand new ballet, bold and beautiful

Sunday 23rd, September 2018 / 20:58


Jubilee Auditorium – Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018

CALGARY — Seventeen Leonard Cohen songs segue together seamlessly in Dance Me, Alberta Ballet’s latest pairing of modern music and motion that pays homage to one of Montreal’s most cherished artists.

As the tracks transition from one to another, a monologue of Cohen’s leads into “Suzanne”; it’s a short segment from a lost interview where he reveals the real person who inspired the song and story. Suzanne was the wife of a good friend, a friend he respected, and while she did feed him tea and oranges down by the river, the touching of perfect bodies with the mind and its implied adventure is something Cohen drew from elsewhere to embellish the experience.

Similarly, Cohen’s music is a springboard for Dance Me to draw from elsewhere and veer off into the stratosphere, which it does well. Under the artistic direction of Louis Robitaille from Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, the production oscillates between contemporary dance with a capital C and theatrical performance art. Sweeping, fast-paced and sensuous, dancers lock tight in various entanglements then explode across the stage drenched in strobes of white light, silhouette and shadow. A spectacular display of nuevo ballet that’s charged and intense throughout. The music comes rolling in waves, filling the auditorium with a diverse, best-of Cohen soundtrack.

“First We Take Manhattan” throbs gloriously, while “Boogie Street” turns up the cabaret heat leading into a chorus line of dancers on their backs, legs in V formation playfully doing the can-can. During “Tower Of Song” a radiant nighttime snowfall fills the backdrop and pulls you into Cohen’s romantic cityscape. Dance Me pulls it down further when a female cast member, who sings a stunning lead during “So Long, Marianne”, kneels on the stage, her white summer dress fanned all around. “Hallelujah” features another striking vocal takeover by a male tenor who squeezes out the spiritual.

The splendor of Dance Me begins with Cohen’s poetry set in motion. Visually it’s captivating — simply put, never a dull moment. It then bursts into a remarkable achievement with its dramatic lighting sequences alongside the quiet, personal songs that dive deep into story. Brand new ballet that’s blazingly bold and beautiful.