In The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas suggests that “The merit of all things lies in their difficulty.” There is no better way to ascribe the tremendous achievement of the Alberta Ballet in producing Dumas’ beloved classic. Tasked with the challenge of transforming an adventure-filled story into a ballet, choreographer David Nixon explores every seemingly possible facet of powerful performance. What could have easily become an overwhelming mess of unfulfilled potential is instead a stunningly synchronous masterpiece – the merit of which certainly lies in its difficulty.
From the moment the curtain opens, observers are transported to 17th century France, an era embodied by its eccentric characters. The stage is a childhood storybook come alive and the dancers are characters of the tale, evoking a comforting sense of nostalgia. The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Sir Malcolm Arnold’s music is instantly noteworthy. Crescendos and diminuendos are used effectively by the cast to accentuate the peaks and pitfalls of the uproarious characters, producing a ubiquitous dynamism that propels the ballet from beginning to end.
At its crux, The Three Musketeers is a tale rooted in the juxtaposition between the extravagant and ordinary, the exciting and mundane, and the bold and dreary. The greatest asset of the ballet is its use of these seemingly paradoxical elements to enhance the foundational story, allowing the dancers to completely embody their characters. Contrast is also used aesthetically through the breathtaking set, which seamlessly transitions from refined, aristocratic chambers to the pleasantries of provincial life. The use of costume is equally striking, particularly during the climactic masquerade scene.
Throughout the show, some synchronicity and spacing issues are apparent between the four male leads; however, these minor errors are easily forgivable given the considerable physicality of the choreography. The movement is exceptionally fast-paced, the several pas de deux exquisitely dreamlike, and the lifts extraordinarily complex. At one point, danseur Kelley McKinlay quite literally lifts ballerina Hayna Gutierrez using his shoulder. Earlier in the performance, their characters’ love at first sight scene, which could have easily been subverted by cliché, is accentuated by an unexpected, sudden halt in movement and expert comedic timing. The engaging nature of the choreography allows for even the minutest moments of the story to feel significant, a powerful contributor to the overall effect of the ballet.
As a regular attendee of Alberta Ballet performances, I can resoundingly declare that The Three Musketeers has most impressed me to date. Balletomanes will surely appreciate the production’s fusion of effective storytelling and captivating movement.
The final performance of The Three Musketeers will be taking place tonight, November 8th, at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. I encourage you to take part in the aesthetic, artistic, and literary experience of a truly captivating ballet, faithful to the essence of Dumas’ original work.
Photography courtesy of Paul McGrath and the Alberta Ballet.