The Memory Room took place on May 18 at The GRAND in Calgary as part of High Performance Rodeo.
The Memory Room is an intimate, beautiful tribute to the power and grace of ballet and the intensity of classical music, all wrapped into one delightful evening.
The outgoing artistic director of Alberta Ballet, Jean Grand-Maître, choreographed his farewell piece in The Memory Room, a world premiere presented by One Yellow Rabbit as part of the High Performance Rodeo: Spring Edition. The performance featured classical pianist Kevin Chen and Alberta Ballet dancers Mariko Kondo, Alexandra Hughes, Kelley McKinlay and Aaron Anker.
The first act is a piano recital by Chen, playing in the spotlight on the stage of the GRAND theatre. He opens with Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in A minor, BWV 90. Chen brings a passionate presence to his music. Next, he plays Chopin’s Ballade No. 4 in F minor, op.102 in a powerful performance coupled with projections on the screen above him. The projection is historical footage and found imagery by Grand-Maître and Nigel Goodwin. The projections become circles of colour and artistic water imagery when Chopin turns to Kapustin’s Sonata No. 12, op. 102. The audience is rapt, taking in Chen’s ability to make a piano come alive.
This energy carries over to the second act, where Chen’s piano is moved downstage so that the dancers have space to perform. Set design by Chris Cran has portraits hanging downstage. Grand-Maître’s choreography pairs McKinlay with Hughes and Kondo with Anker. The second act is all duet work, with the pairs taking turns before all dancing together in the third piece while Chen plays music from Liszt and Debussy.
Chen playing live onstage and the dancers being so close to the audience creates a magical, breathtaking intimacy. You can hear the tap of pointe shoes onstage amid the keys of the piano reverberating. It is a creation of strength and grace and beauty.
The dancers wear simple bodysuits, and Scott Reid’s lighting design highlights their every muscle. The lines created are spectacular. The mesmerizing movement blends each piece together, the choreography not varying until the third piece, in which both couples perform together. Here, the dancers don’t move in synchronization, but their movement highlights the brutal strength of their bodies – all deep bends and twirls, on pointe the entire time. It highlights the immense training and labour and pinpoint precision behind these artists who have reached this point in their careers, this point in their abilities, this point in their artistic strength.
When it was all over and the final note rang out, the audience exhaled after holding our collective breath, and we all bowed down to the exquisite talent of these amazing artists.
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