Seconds before the show is due to begin the Artistic Director of the Alberta Ballet, Jean Grand-Maître, commands the audiences’ attention with his bright purple feather boa and sparkly sequined top hat promising the packed auditorium that they are in for a treat. His ensemble is a fitting tribute to Sir Elton John, as Love Lies Bleeding explores the rise to fame of the glam rock star and his journey coming to terms with his own sexuality.
The central character, played by Yukichi Hattori – a man of inexhaustible talents and onstage physical prowess, brings the character of ‘Elton Fan’ to life. Each song is a mini-production on its own, revealing the personal cost of the rockstar’s extravagant lifestyle – drug abuse, self-loathing and depression. Although there is no chronology to Elton Fan’s journey, the loosely haphazard timeline effectively presents the tumultuous high and lows, allowing the audience to experience the dangerous excess of a rockstar lifestyle. Throughout the ballet, Elton Fan is haunted by characters known as the Demonics – ominous dancers donning skintight lycra bodysuits and domineering smiles who torment Elton Fan as he flirts with sex, drugs and fame.
While the first half is certainly enjoyable and emulates the feeling of being at a rock concert with mesmerizing multimedia effects, the second half is much more cohesive and poignant. The homoerotic theme is stronger and consists of acts featuring a beautiful choreographed male duet practically in the nude, an exuberant dance number led by sneering drag queens, and Elton Fan’s courageous performance declaring his homosexuality in a time long before it was acceptable.
In terms of dance, Love Lies Bleeding features choreography that is a contemporary mix of ballet, hip-hop, and jazz matching the energy of the wild electric lights and Sir Elton John’s classic hits. The high energy performance mirrors the ambiance that you would find at a rock concert or in a music video, and you can’t help but belt and move along with Jean Grand-Maître ballet production. For newcomers to the ballet scene, the choreography is audience-friendly with recognizable pattern combinations and modern dance layered with highly technical ballet. Although the spotlight is given for other solo performances, the Alberta Ballet largely supports principal dancer, Yukichi Hattori, as he leaps, twirls, and splits with breathtaking physicality.
Love Lies Bleeding is a mesmerizing ballet that celebrates the male physicality set against the backdrop of electrifying colour, lights, and movement providing audiences with a wonderfully entertaining night out. A beautiful end to the Alberta Ballet season and Hattori’s final performance with the ballet company.
Love Lies Bleeding played at the Jubilee Auditorium on May 13-14, 2016.
Photography courtesy of Don Lee (feature photo) and JJ Thompson (photo above).