Bold, passionate, visceral. Languid, graceful. Movement takes these and many other forms in the National Ballet of Canada’s compelling duo of Canadian premieres, Skin Divers and Carmen, on now through June 14 as part of the Luminato festival.
Skin Divers, a modernist suite of four pas de deux intercut with solos, trios, quartets and quintets, opens the program. Created by Canadian-born choreographer Dominique Dumais, it interprets two poems by award-winning writer Anne Michaels, whose evocative, intimate use of language seems ideally suited to physical invocation. Michaels herself provides a throaty (recorded) reading of the text that overlays Gavin Bryars’s haunting String Quartet no. 2; both words and music resonate throughout the hall, gliding from one note—and one utterance—to the next as the dancers engage in their exploration of nature and, according to the program notes, “the desire for flight above humanity’s essential groundedness.” A projected backdrop of naked female form adds another layer to the performance—accentuating its stripped-bare aesthetic, where artifice is abandoned and the essence of sound and movement revealed.
Carmen is a similarly pared down effort, focusing solely on the archetypal elements of its narrative—passion, sexuality, human nature—and the tumultuous affair between the mercurial title character and her pursuer, Don José. In this Davide Bombana-choreographed interpretation, the individual performances are uniformly torrid, high-energy affairs set alternately to Bizet’s familiar (and rightfully celebrated) score and pulse-pounding modern-industrial music, the latter of which serves to further emphasize the carnality of the proceedings. Indeed, aside from nods to the memorable musical motifs, none of the trappings of classical ballet are to be found here–all the better to expose the raw emotions of Carmen‘s fateful tale as it proceeds from its erotic opening steps to its shattering conclusion.
TIP! Arrive 45 minutes prior to showtime to enjoy a flamenco performance by Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company, in the Four Seasons Centre’s Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.June 6, 7, 8, 10 to 14, Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen St. W.), various times, $20 to $200. Visit the National Ballet’s website or the Four Seasons Centre box office to purchase tickets.