A Night at the Ballet – Chroma

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This past weekend, my husband and I went to see a performance by the National Ballet of Canada, here in Toronto. This is quite possibly one of my favorite things on earth! As a recreational ballet and modern dancer for most of my life, dance remains an important part of my identity and I feel so fortunate to live in a city that supports Canada’s ballet culture!

Saturday’s performance included The Man in Black (A full-on Johnny Cash Tribute performed in cowboy boots), presented with the modern Chroma (set to a score by Joby Talbot and includes unique orchestrations of songs by The White Stripes), the classical Allegro Brillante and the playful Carousel. So much variety in one night! Of this diverse ensemble of works, it is Wayne McGregor’s Chroma, (which made its company premier in 2010), that kept me engaged long after the curtain closed.

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Chroma begins with a startling cacophony of sound and movement, like I’ve been dropped in part-way through some spectacular event which saw no reason to wait for an audience.

This is a world of movement pure – a world all its own. Here movement is like a new creature experiencing itself for the first time, with no preconceptions of what it should or shouldn’t be. The movement contorts and suspends, divides and extends into impossible things.

The androgynous and muted costumes are as transient as the movements they clothe – clearly real, but only recently so. I try to identify gender but it isn’t there. It’s not that it dissolves or fades into a secondary element, it just never existed in this place.

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The stage is a sort of box – all white and overexposed, clinical and calculated yet strangely inviting with its softly rounded edges. A deliberate rectangular opening on the back face is where dancers are emerging. My mind begins to clutch for context… What is the relationship between the figures on stage? Where could they be? Is there a narrative? Perhaps I am witnessing extra-terrestrial movement in space? Or maybe this is a controlled incubation chamber for new life? Or perhaps I am seeing the birth of some scientific discovery at a microscopic level?

Chroma may be any or all of the above, yet it won’t invite or persuade the audience’s attention by means of a clear narrative. It is simply happening, and you can’t help but feel honoured to witness it.

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Dancers: Evan McKie and Svetlana Lunkina in Chroma
Photo by: Karolina Kuras via The National Ballet of Canada