Balletlujah Celebrates k.d. Lang and Brings the Prairies to Life | By Goran Miletic

The Alberta Ballet’s production of Balletlujah was a fantastical collaboration of several enthralling dancers, in tune with the beats and melodies of the one and only k.d. Lang. The production features fifteen beautiful songs, each with their own dance number, storyline and entrapment in the whimsical spell of Jean’s Grand-Maître choreography.

In the beginning, we are pleasantly introduced to the production by Jean himself, and with no time wasted, the mentioning of k.d. Lang. As the curtains open we are familiarized with the main dancer, a female beauty who at first glance with her high-waist knotted chambray shirt, and tom-boy aura provides a simple rendition of k.d. Lang herself: a mixture of Prairie beauty, a keen understanding of life to come and a soon-to-develop infatuation with a lover. An invigorating nuance of homosexual undertone sets the pace for this production: I could not wait to see what would happen next. Prairie life, love, dance, and possibly a refreshing sexual milieu?

Soon after we follow our main lady as she comes into contact with another femme fatal. We are introduced to her as she takes main stage, all eyes focused on her as she performs several solos. Needless to say, the two characters become infatuated with one another. A tale of a long-awaited romance between the tom-boy and the beauty now begins. Scenes of romanticism during a predictable honeymoon phase of the relationship follow suit. One picturesque scene in particular, where our two characters are placed near a body of water, comes to mind. Here, the two individuals immerse themselves in each other’s lustful yet reserved admiration while three creatively-costumed dancers enter the stage following the riveting beats of k.d. Lang’s “Wash Me Clean.”

The combination of these three dancers and the serenade between the two lovers in bloom works in such a tranquil manner, reminding the audience what ballet is really all about. In the conclusion to the first half of the performance, we have a sensual dance between the two Prairie girls along with pairings of what are virtually naked ballet performers to the melody of Lang’s “Sexuality.” This is a possible first attempt at an intensely corporeal relation between the two main characters.

After a 20-minute  intermission we come back to a more carnal and dynamic portion of the production. Lang’s infamous “Constant Craving’”cover echoes through the Jubilee, and suddenly I am enthralled. The dancing is a breeze flowing in sync with Lang’s melody. The dancers seemed to be more at ease at this point in the production, as does the relationship between our two main characters. We witness them move away together to the city. The juxtaposition between the ease of the Prairies and the city’s endless night life is stark. The noise and dynamics of big-city life are transcribed beautifully by the dancers, with increasingly rigid steps and dynamic movements. The choreography does wonders to portray the congestion of urban life.

Momentarily, I am again entranced by Lang’s spell. But this time a more depressing atmosphere befalls the stage as our main lady is left alone after her other half abandons her for a harlot. The sound of rain, umbrellas, slow movements and an alluding sense of foreboding takes over. Luckily it all finishes with a strong sense of satisfaction: our tom-boy returns to her origins in the Prairies where she finds her self, that self lost in a tumultuous relationship with her first love.

Whether God is the foundation to the ending or if the ending is more or less a metaphor for the light we have within us, we see that the stage gleams with images of Renaissance paintings of saints. Several solos and group numbers take place to the tunes of Lang’s “Hallelujah,” the last song of this mesmerizing production from the Alberta Ballet.

Overall, this production is unconventional, but captivating nonetheless. The unique Western-inspired movements on stage, primarily in the first half of the production, did not sit well with me. However, The performance’s second half showed more fluid engagements and choreography, keeping me on the edge of my seat, often among the first to clap. The storyline is riveting, and the stimulating homosexual undertone is dexterously crafted by the producers. Alberta Ballet has taken several additional steps forward, and I am just that much more excited for their next creation.

 Photograph courtesy of PMG Image and Alberta Ballet, found here

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