This isn’t the Coastal City Ballet We Know

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Ill-fated programme (mine) for an ill-fated romance (Giselle’s, not mine)

I’ve been so overwhelmed by courses and a new dayjob that Coastal City Ballet‘s Giselle just tiptoed up on me. If not for some bickering with a ballet teacher about availability (“You won’t be here Friday.” “Yes I will!” “S said you’re all seeing a performance that day.” “…Huh?”) I would’ve missed it.

It would’ve been a shame, too. CCB has become unrecognisable… in a good way. This performance took place at Vancouver Playhouse, an upgrade (especially in sound) from Centennial Theatre in North Van. The choreography and dancing are good, and nearly all the costumes make sense. Maybe it’s why Coastal City now refers to itself as “a company for emerging dancers” rather than a pre-professional company?

I’d given B-cat the tickets as a St. Valentine’s Day gift; my ballet friend S met us there; and during the first intermission I discovered I was sitting next to G, a classmate from Goh Ballet. That made three people I originally met at three different ballet schools! And the one thing all of us minus B-cat disliked was the Princess’s outfit.

Why, in a world in which grown women clearly wear full skirts with voluminous underlayers, is she wearing a fitted (Edwardian?) jacket and narrow skirt with a bustle???

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The Prince’s betrothed is 3rd from the right, back row, in a ridiculous hat

Giselle and Albrecht convey emotion well as a sad, sweet couple. It’s one of the male villagers, though, who stands out most with his power and control. I only recall reading that he’s from Japan… as we seem to have left our programmes at Guu Garden after the performance. Damn S for suggesting that restaurant.

So while I can’t credit him by name, the three of us (again excluding B-cat, who, now that I think about it, said little about anything. Did he even enjoy the event?!) thought this unknown male the best danseur of all. Keep up the good work!…

See Coastal City Ballet’s Giselle in Surrey on June 9, regardless of what you thought of them before. They’re so worth it.

Pick up another programme for me while you’re there?
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My prograaamme

 

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PC Nutcracker

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S (the best dancer at one of the schools I go to… or went to, before the car accident) took me to Ballet BC & Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s last Nutcracker (on tour) of the season.

There’s lots to like about the production:

  1. RWB is a little different each year. This year’s Nutcracker takes place in 1910s Canada and includes hockey, people falling on icy sidewalks, and polar bears. So Canadian;
  2. Soft colours and fine painted details make lovely, realistic costumes and storybook backdrops;
  3. Makeup & costumes look good on the non-white dancers, too, and the “multicultural” bits are more balletic and less racist than most! (Incidentally, the Arabian costumes should’ve been First Nations);
  4. No more bear baiting or obvious favouritism among the kids. A bear comes into the house for food. So, so Canadian.

Conversely:

  1. S feels the 1930s opening is pointless if the Kingdom of Sweets is just business as usual;
  2. Smallest mice look like clones of Disney’s Goofy (same face and colour and all) while the Mouse King looks like a dog-headed man;
  3. Chinese/tea dancer still has double buns, arms forming permanent Ls, and hands fused in gesturing “1”s. At this point she may as well be using those fingers to push up the corners of her eyes, she’s such a stereotype;
  4. All the angels are blonde!… you want me to say. Actually, the wigs are so metallic gold I don’t give a damn.

No one was spectacularly good or bad, which perhaps makes for better holiday viewing than placing awesome virtuoso dancers alongside people who fall out of jumps. The choreography was too safe, though, wasn’t it?

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Photo from RWB, since my curtain call photo failed

On a side note, we sat dead centre in the lower balcony (as mentioned before, S has high standards for everything ballet). The view would’ve been perfect if the mother and child in front and two women another row down didn’t lean forward the entire time. Behind them, to S’s left, a man with a wedge-shaped head started playing with his little phone in the middle of Act I. After I asked him to turn it off, he squirmed and rustled wrappers for over an hour. S says she was afraid he was going to attack me, but he merely threw a fit from a safe distance at the end before running away.

If you think not being racist is being too PC, you wouldn’t like this production. Otherwise, you can still catch the RWB Nutcracker in Winnipeg later in December.

Only the Swans Prevail

Last week I took B-cat to see Coastal City Ballet‘s retelling of Swan Lake at Vancouver Playhouse. Compared with Europe, all ballets and operas in Vancouver are expensive, but Coastal City — being a pre-professional company — is the most affordable option here for classical (story) ballets.

That said, they never seem to have nice costumes. I usually attend their performances with S, and her first remark when the topic comes up is always:

They always dance in T-shirts and pants.

Well, S had to work that day, so she missed seeing Prince Siegfried in tights! And prince boots! The other dancers, though, still look as if they raided some five-year-old’s dress-up box.

Here’s an idea of the group composition in more than one scene:

  • Three men in modern dress shirts and pants
  • Two dancers in lamé ’80s clubwear
  • A handful of women in cheap ballet class dresses or those sundresses with legs (?)
  • One guy all in mesh
  • One guy in an elaborate Romeo shirt and khaki trousers
  • Too many people mixing pieces spanning all eras

It’s even part of the story this time — Siegfried’s entourage finds a chest of clothes in a castle, etc. — but only draws attention to how badly dressed they remain when the story doesn’t require it (and made for awkward on-stage changing). And the corps is more mismatched than their wardrobe. They extend their legs to different heights, wobble when they need to hold still, and fall out of pirouettes or jumps, unable to finish properly. It doesn’t look like they even rehearsed in the same room.

What happened, CCB?

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Maybe it’s bad for their morale that Sakura Inoue and her friends have pretty pancake tutus. As Odette the girl, Inoue is truly regal, i.e. proud, patient, and without arrogance. She dances beautifully. As the swan, she’s more bird-like and expressive than any I’ve seen. The cygnets, too, have surprising energy and perfect coordination; most professional ballerinas don’t manage to be as uniform as these four.

As for the men, what little Diego Ramalho’s Siegfried lacks in technique he makes up for in acting, and vice versa for his buddy (I think… For some reason the programme lists everyone alphabetically, making identification difficult). And poor Rothbart (Tyler Carver) may be the worst dressed, but he is flawless — turns out he’s a guest artist from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

It’s the really good dancers that keep this from becoming a disappointing experience. I wish B-cat’s first Swan Lake were better, but we’d definitely want to see Inoue in other lead roles in the future.

P.S. More than half of the dancers are non-white — how West Coast is that?

Coastal City Ballet’s next production is Swan Lake on June 10 (sold out, it appears).