Shakespeare gets a facelift

By Kara Martens

When read, the plays of Shakespeare are dead words on a page. Through performance they remain alive, relevant and loved through hundreds of years. Once again, they will get new life as Alberta Ballet resurrects them in the vibrant Shakespeare Dances.

"A bear, a baby, a murder, a suicide, a mauling, a murder, a drowning," explains Paul-Anthony Chambers, of the appeal of working on Shakespeare Dances, which includes five dances inspired by the bard’s plays.

Having danced in Calgary with Alberta Ballet for seven years, Chambers is excited about the dramatic and comedic possibilities the mixed repertoire allows.

"That’s the secret with mixed rep," says Chambers. "You can have one that is dramatically funny and more serious ones. One about love, one about death, one about betrayal."

An added challenge for the company was the freshness of the dances; the evening includes three world premieres and two company premieres.

"The opening piece is a loose interpretation of The Winter’s Tale," states Chambers who shares the male lead with Patrick Canny.

With the use of props and humour, choreographer Mark Godden creates an accessible yet dramatic piece.

"Nobel Birth does a lot of playing with swords. They are not just swords," winks Chambers. "It is more a story so it is quite dramatic."

Recently added to the cast of Of Nobel Birth, is Barbara Moore. Moore, on leave from the company after the birth of her daughter Grace, is filling in for Ronda Nychka who was injured during performances of Shakespeare Dances in Red Deer and Edmonton last weekend. Moore will draw upon her own maternal experience, as she once again becomes a new mother, giving birth on stage.

" It is just fun," says Chambers. "You can just play with it."

Next in the program is the more serious and classical Hamlet and Ophelia [pas de deux]. Choreographed by Val Caniparoli, the piece sets in motion the tragic love of the royal couple to the music of Bohuslav Martinu.

Also, in a more serious strain is Eternal Spring, the world premiere [pas de deux] from Romeo and Juliet by Jean Paul Comelin.

"Romeo and Juliet is much more satisfying to dance," says Chambers who was slated to play Romeo before his partner, Nychka, was injured. "We had really connected emotionally."

The tragic relationship between Othello and Desdemona is danced in the fourth piece of Shakespeare Dances. The scene sees Iago planting his connived doubts in Othello to Desdemona’s downfall. The piece was choreographed by the innovative John Butler who’s Carmina Burana was performed by the Alberta Ballet in 1991.

The last of the dances is Much Ado…, is a world premiere by Helgi Tomasson, the artistic director for the San Francisco Ballet. With no plot, the dance is open to audience interpretation and leaves the audience on a more positive note.

With the varied repertoire and music, from Hector Berlioz to Sir Arthur Sullivan, provided by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Alberta Ballet has covered gambit to give all lovers of dance and Shakespeare a reason to come out.

For Shakespeare Dances the Alberta Ballet has reduced tickets for all students with a valid post secondary id to $5. The performances are at the Jubilee Auditorium on Oct. 29 and 30.


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