Alberta Ballet bring an iconic and intense story to the Jube’s stage
Based on the iconic French novel by 18th century author Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Dangerous Liaisons comes to Edmonton for a brief two nights to stun audiences and disappear.
Alberta Ballet’s world-renowned artistic director, Jean Grand-Maître first translated de Laclos’ iconic novel to a ballet for the National Norwegian Ballet in 1999, which he then brought to Canada in 2004. His affinity for pushing himself and his team inspired Grand-Maître to redesign the gritty ballet to suit the larger Jubilee stages.
The story, which deals with rape and sexual control, is certainly timely, he says.
“It’s interesting because of the Harvey Weinstein scandals and Trump and all that gang, you know with the Cosbys and the Ghomeshis.
“People think it’s an erotic story, but really it’s a terrifying story of sexual manipulation and control,” he says. “It’s a lot of meat and potatoes.”
To tackle the complex story of lust and darkness, Grand-Maître and set designer, Guillaume Lord, decided to add a theatre component that pushes the story forward in two separate worlds, while ballet dancers transpose the emotions and inner souls of the actors near the apron of the proscenium.
“It’s like you slice the stage in two and through a magic wall that becomes transparent appears a three-dimensional set upstage, where in period costumes people are going through this drama.”
The actors will even speak some of the original words from the novel at certain points throughout the performance.
“And then the wall becomes opaque,” he says, “and we bring the action in front of that wall, where the dancers are.”
The narrative moves forward in both the ballet and the play, something that marks the performance as easy-to-access for anyone normally intimidated by ballet.
“For people who don’t always feel they can understand dance, it’s a great way to go,” Grand-Maître says. “It helps them to understand the psychology of what’s going on in the ballet.”
In fact, he adds that it liberates the ballet because the dancers become what they’re meant to be, which is pure energy. And it’s that freedom that pushes the dance to take on a more contemporary and technical form.
By combining the world of theatre and the world of dance, Grand-Maître does something profound. He creates a fusion of narrative, emotional depth and beauty on stage that has the potential to compensate for each of the separate shortcomings when on their own.
Joining the Alberta Ballet is the immensely talented Denise Clarke (O.C.) from One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre. Her technical skills as well as theatrical skills will be put to use in the performance as La Marquise de Merteuil, the infamously bored French aristocrat behind all of the nefarious wrongs that follow.
“In working in a theatrical setting you can exploit that seedy side of everything you’ve recognized and thought, ‘how horrible!’ but as an actor it’s a gas.” Clarke says. “There’s so much to draw on.”
At the time Laclos wrote the story, there was no way for her character and accomplice to get away with their actions, which is something she finds very cathartic in today’s world.
“This is where this kind of dark and dirty evil should lurk, it should lurk on stages as a reflection and not as a reality in the society,” Clarke says.
The classical soundtrack, created by Claude Lemelin, includes pieces likely to be widely recognized. A range of composers are featured—Arvo Pärt, Gavin Bryars and Giya Kancheli—helping to compliment the darkness on stage.
Along with Guillaume, the Alberta Ballet’s design team includes costume designer Martine Bertrand, who can be credited for each actor’s period costume and each parallel dancer’s barely-there guise, as well as Pierre Lavoie for lighting design.
While there’s no nudity, the content of the show is not recommended for children Grand-Maître says, as he laughs about how the ballet sometimes shocks even him with its provocative portrayals.
“It’s nice to see that over the years the ballet hasn’t aged that much and people are still reacting quite strongly to it,” he says. “It’s a challenging show that’s for people that like to go to the theatre to be challenged.”
Fri., Nov. 3 & 4 (7:30 pm)
From $55 at ticketmaster.ca