Dance Review: Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal

The dance closely follows a detailed script with numerous twists and turns of a complex plot.

March 5, 2019 22:15
2 minute read.
Dance Review: Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal

CANADA’S LES GRANDS Ballets Canadiens de Montréal performs ‘Vendetta’ . (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, the Montreal-based ballet company, founded more than 60 years ago, came over with an ambitious project, choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, aimed at presenting an evening of entertaining dance based on mafia stories.

Chicago, prohibition era, three Italian mafia families, endless feuds, 60 dancers holding guns, more machine guns, corrupt police, mayhem and one love story with a twist. Spoiler: the beloved, gentle daughter of the powerful “don” inherits his power ring after he was gunned down, and becomes the chief mobster.

The dance closely follows a detailed script with numerous twists and turns of a complex plot, written by the 60-year-old Dutch playwright Titus Tiel Groenestege, who – as one can guess – is also involved in the film industry.

The basic story interweaves several familiar motives, which are part of our cultural education – the touching love story against the odds in the Shakespearean play Romeo and Juliet and its rendition as a Broadway hit in West Side Story – and dozens of cinematographic icons, including The Godfather and many other mobster movies made previously and afterwards.

What motivated the artistic and production efforts to go and dig deeply into the more superficial mafia stories of old Chicago, which lost their luster ages ago, has no answers in this particular ballet. The dance simply relies on a popular subject matter and hopes that a grand stage with lots of dancers, popular Italian music, and period costumes with hats for all is a sure honey trap for the masses. This is what is known as typical thinking within the box.

Basically, the ballet company is a committed, very nice regional company with conservative, outdated approach, and probably could impress more with a sharper creation.

All dance scenes were properly executed, the compositions were clear and functional, sometimes too literate, but the long performance knew only few moments of inspired imagination, like during the don’s funeral scene where the four casket carriers depicted ornate horses, or the father-daughter interplay behind his armchair.

Olivier Landreville’s stage design was impressive and versatile, and inspired the most beautiful moment that evening: a man in a suit and a hat stands still on the elevated train tracks, a clear reference to painter Rene Magritte’s surreal male images set against cloudy background.

Only our man held a red balloon. It was one in a line of several strong visual images, well supported by the lighting designer Marc Parent.

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