Review: Jiří Kylián’s ‘Forgotten Land’ and the World Premiere of ‘Carmen’ | By Nisha Patel

Carmen is a vivacious, richly-detailed performance that takes the famous tale of a gypsy siren from it’s operatic roots and gives it new purpose in the pliés and arabesques of ballet. Based on the 1845 French novella, the story winds it’s way around the many men and women who are affected by the gypsy’s alluring charm, including a besotted young soldier who loses his rank in pursuit of Carmen. Hayna Gutierrez’s Carmen is a fluid, nimble dancer whose body seems to float across the stage at times, lending itself to lifts as easily as it does to the slow, seductive steps she takes towards her admirers. She truly is an enchantress, transitioning from solo leaps and pirouettes to the arms of her partners, be they soldier, gypsy, or toreador.

She comes very close to outshining her talented peers, but Jacial Gomez holds his own in his portrayal of the gypsy-turned-soldier Jose. His performance is powerful and deliberate, his body conveying his joy, longing, and despair accordingly as the choreography demands. Under choreographer Yukichi Hattori’s interpretation, the performance has few weaknesses, with every member of the company fulfilling specific niches in the production. The costumes are bright, radiant even, a palette of reds that accents the tenor of the performance well. It is very much worth taking the time to attend this ballet interpretation of the famous opera under Hattori’s direction.

Additionally, patrons of the ballet were treated to an opening performance of Forgotten Land, a piece that is, in executive director Martin Bragg’s words, an exploration of memories and ‘our desire to reclaim the best parts of the past’. For the first time in artistic director Jean Grand-Maitre’s twelve years with the Ballet he was able to bring choreography from the famous Czech artist Jiří Kylián to the stage. Forgotten Land is a contemporary take on ballet, pairing together six couples in articulate segments of choreography. The dancers become frenzied as the music does, or slow to a waltz when the song demands, taking care to match their movements to tone. Each of the partners has a time to shine before coming together in sharp, poignant group numbers against a grey, murky backdrop. Overall, the piece is melancholy but beautifully performed, and does justice to the years it took to bring Kylián’s talented work to stage.

Carmen and Forgotten Land were performed in Edmonton on March 20-21. They will travel to Calgary’s Jubilee Auditorium for performances on March 26-28.

Photography courtesy of Alberta Ballet and Tim Johnston.

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