While casually chatting over lunch last summer, Edmonton Metropolitan Chorus director David Garber asked his old friend Tony Olivares if he had any new projects on his mind.
The two had collaborated on the Canadian debut of The Peacemakers, a contemporary choral work by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins. Olivares’ dancers complimented the chorus’s performance on the Winspear stage back in March 2015.
Olivares, a fan of Mozart, replied that he’d always wanted to set a dance to Requiem. And lucky for him, Garber was looking to mount a program that would help EdMetro prepare for their upcoming trip to Carnegie Hall in March 2016—and what better way than to set a cast of over 200 local singers, musicians and dancers to do just that?
“It’s an amazing collaboration,” says Olivares, who notes that it’s a special treat for dancers to perform with a live orchestra and chorus. In all, Monday’s show will employ artists from Tony Olivares Dance along with EdMetro Chorus, i Coristi Chamber Choir, Edmonton Metropolitan Orchestra and organist
It’s certainly not the first time Requiem has been taken up by a dance company; notable choreographies set to Mozart’s final work have been produced by the Leipzig and Cincinnati Ballets, and Alberta Ballet did its own well-acclaimed version back in 2008 (then remounted it in 2013, too). Arguably though, it may be the first time the score has been worked on by a contemporary choreographer and a handful of parkour artists.
For this performance, Olivares and his team of dancers have collaborated with 2J Pantoja and artists from FlyFree Movement. While the posh orchestra house may seem stuffy for a form as raw and free-running as parkour—not to mention the oft mournful tone of the score—Olivares was excited to work with movers of a different discipline.
“The boys from FlyFree are also involved in all the choreography; they’re learning how to dance contemporary as well,” he notes. “We’re already thinking of collaborating again because the chemistry between all of us is great.”
The performers will use large blocks to build the playground for the jumps and climbs that are inherent to parkour’s urban gymnastics; of the 14 movements in Requiem, the dancers will appear in nine, including the sixth and most iconic movement, the sombre “Lacrymosa.”
“It was the last piece that Mozart wrote, and it was about death,” Olivares explains. “It asks, how are we going to celebrate death? And who are we celebrating? That was another concept that came to me. We celebrate life, but we don’t celebrate death.”
His approach is different than other interpretations he has seen; with a cast of nine—four parkour artists and five TOD dancers—Olivares wanted the movement quality of the piece to highlight the male body’s strength as well as its softness.
“I just wanted to go back to a more simple way to express the Requiem, and also to express the masculinity of men.”
The second half of the performance will highlight the Edmonton Metropolitan Chorus with i Coristi Chamber Choir performing Allan Bevan’s Nou Goth Sonne Under Wode, the work that EdMetro will be performing at Carnegie Hall in March.
Mon, Feb 22 (7:30 pm)
Winspear Centre, $20 – $35