Ashely Werhun and Kiera Hill in Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal's "Rouge." (Joseph Ghaleb)
I was introduced to Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal in January of 2014 when I attended their first appearance at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (The Wallis); it included the works “The Closer” by French choreographer Benjamin Millepied, “Night Box” by Chinese/Canadian choreographer Wen Wei Wang and “Harry” by our own Angelino/Israeli choreographer Barak Marshall.
On the night of Thursday, April 16, 2015, this very exciting dance company, headed by former French-Canadian ballet dancer Louis Robitaille, did not disappoint on their second appearance at The Wallis in Beverly Hills. This time around three new works were presented, “Zero in On” by Spanish choreographer Cayetano Soto, “Kosmos” by Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis and “Rouge” by Brazilian choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras.
The evening began with “Zero in On,” the U.S. premier set to the Philip Glass piece “The Opening” with lighting and costume design also done by Soto. This pas de deux (duet) was presented in a stark lit stage with half of the floor in white and the other in black with a diagonal metal truss lighting bar angled from one of the corners of the white part of the stage. Dancers Celine Cassone and Marcio Vinicius Paulino Silveira proved to be a formidable duo with their speed, technique and detail of hands and arms to the very complex and fast passed choreography by Soto.
Second on the program was “Kosmos,” an ensemble piece which began with the cast using their bodies and stomping feet to create a percussion driven introduction that evolves into a Arabic-infused, industrial soundtrack by composer Julien Tarride. This very exciting piece was a tour de force for the company because it allowed each member to showcase their strength, flexibility, speed and musicality all meanwhile highlighting the piece as a whole.
The choreography by Foniadakis relied on lots of arm and hand movements with complex athletic feats while complementing the fast passed theme of the music. The creative, stark lighting by James Proudfoot added gorgeous tints of blue hues to stage. Particular interesting was the glitter-like projection onto the darken bodies of the dancers giving them an alien-like glow as the music moved towards an electronic sound at the end of the piece. The all black costumes by Philippe Dubuc rounded off the visual effects for what was the highlight of the evening.
After a short intermission, the third and last piece “Rouge” was presented; ir pays homage to the Amerindian culture (indigenous people of the Americas) with music by Paul Baillargeon and the Grand Brothers in another percussion driven ensemble piece. The choreography by Pederneiras is a mix of modern and ballet with a hint of Capoeira, the martial arts created in Brazil by African slaves, in an emotional tale of the conquering of the Americas by the Europeans.
Once again the company dancers rose to the occasion, showing their exemplary technique and preparation on another complex and arresting piece of dance with special kudos to Celine Cassone and Christian Denice for their erotic duo. The lighting by Gabriel Pederneiras (brother to Rodrigo) captured the feel of nature, concept of community and conflict with the earth toned simple costumes, face and body paint conveying part of the historical context of the work.
Taking several much deserved bows by a very appreciative audience, Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal proved that their successful run at The Wallis might be extended to future seasons.