Tag Archives: Romeo + Juliet

Celebrating with The Frick and The WAG

The Art Caravan is celebrating…in a covid kind of way.  A year ago we started posting regularly – every two weeks. (Our initial, and very tentative post was in February 2014, with sporadic postings until 2020.)

Re-reading the March 2020 post reminds me how little we knew about life in a pandemic.  Sigh.  Be reassured this post is NOT going to discuss the all-too-familiar challenging and horrendous circumstances of the last twelve months. Instead, we are going to mark this anniversary (of sorts) with gentleness, one of the strategies Dr. Pauline Boss recommends, to survive in a time of loss. She recommends doing things we enjoy, participating in rituals and being kind to others.

The most recent edition of Cocktails with a Curator: Rembrandt’s Self Portrait aptly kicks off our celebration.  It’s a perfect blend of art, ritual and kindness.  If you are a regular reader of The Art Caravan you will know that I am mad for Rembrant’s Self Portrait at the Frick.  I make a point of seeing it whenever I visit New York City.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self Portrait, 1658, The Frick Collection

I wondered when this masterpiece would be featured on Cocktails with a Curator, one of the four (4!) video series produced by The Frick Collection.  (I also enjoyed The Frick Five video series, which resulted in excellent daydreams and  interesting conversations.  Skip the Netfl*x and go to The Frick’s You Tube channel, which offers a plethora of worthy choices.)

A virtual visit to an artwork isn’t the same as experiencing it in person, but I enjoyed the presentation by the always erudite Xavier F. Salomon, the chief curator at The Frick.  He outlines the history and context of this self portrait in Rembrandt’s life.  I may not agree entirely with his interpretation of Rembrandt’s self-depiction, but the discussion adds to my appreciation of the painting.

The Frick adapted well to the harsh realities of a pandemic. It generously (most programs are free), and regularly shares its art and expertise through innovative online programming.

If you’re in the mood for more celebrating (and who isn’t?) The Winnipeg Art Gallery opens Qaumajuq, its new Inuit Art Centre, this week.  (Here is the post from January 2021 with more information about this gallery hosting the world’s largest collection of Inuit art.)  The WAG is kindly inviting us to a two part, virtual opening to  celebrate the new 40,000 square foot space.

Qaumajuq, Winnipeg Art Gallery, cbc.ca image

I encourage you to open some bubbly, and salute The Frick and the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  Despite the formidable difficulties presented by a pandemic, both institutions continue to contribute to society in innovative and meaningful ways.  They unstintingly provide easy access to art, beauty, differing cultures, ideas and a myriad of educational opportunities.  They are worthy of our appreciation, praise and celebration.  Cheers!

 

Take a break from Netfl*x – virtual dance performances

The things we learn during a pandemic!  Who would have believed, pre-covid,  that watching dance presentations virtually could be enjoyable?  My few vague memories of professional dance performances are static/full stage view/one camera angle/small screen televised programs of traditional ballet.

Thankfully, the filming of dance has developed into a specialized art form.  Dance videos are a legitimate form of entertainment.  I got a glimpse of this a few years ago, watching this 2015 City and Colour music video of Dallas Green’s Lover Come Back.

Like a professional sporting event, it’s a different experience watching dance virtually, rather than in person.  I can hardly believe I am typing this, but it seems (based on my covid mandated dance viewing) that both in-person and videoed presentations can be satisfying experiences.  As long as the performances, choreography and filming are exceptional, the experiences are enjoyable, albeit in different ways. (Close ups: check.  Dancers’ expressions: check.  Going out for dinner with friends before or after: impossible right now.)

The Dance Victoria organization quickly pivoted to a virtual season of dance performances early in the pandemic.  You may recall my March post about Ballet BC’s presentation of Romeo + Juliet.   A highly anticipated, in-person dance presentation was cancelled; fortunately, a video of the performance was made available to subscribers.

Romeo + Juliet, Ballet BC (image by Michael Slobodian)

Romeo + Juliet, Ballet BC (image by Michael Slobodian)

Dance Victoria’s 2020-2021 season continues virtually.  Compagnie Hervé KOUBI, a French/Algerian dance company opened the season.  Watch this short video to get a sense of the physicality of this remarkable company of dancers. Here’s a trailer for  What the day owes to the night – the full performance I recently viewed….twice.

Compagnie Hervé KOUBI, What the day owes to the night, NY Times image

Some dance companies are offering free content.  Most of these performances have been created in response to the pandemic and its restrictions.  The Guggenheim offers these Works in Process. Highly creative, they are site specific, and take place outdoors, near Lincoln Center in NYC.  The National Ballet of Canada is presenting Expansive Dances, a series of three different solos.   Ailey Forward is available this month from the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

With all of the paid and free performances, there are supporting material and bonus features.  For example, the Dance Victoria interview with the artistic director, Hervé Koubi, was fascinating, and added to the enjoyment of What the day owes to the night. There is even a behind the scenes video for Expansive Dances.

Take a break from Netfl*x.  Download the Ailey Forward schedule, and watch some dance.  It’s another way to make this festive season just ‘a bit’ more unique.

Romeo + Juliet

Some of the many consequences of the current pandemic are the cancellations of art exhibitions and dance, theatre and music performances.  I had tickets to see Ballet BC perform their new ballet, Romeo + Juliet, on March 14.

Romeo + Juliet, Ballet BC (image by Michael Slobodian)

Romeo + Juliet, Ballet BC (image by Michael Slobodian)

I am a huge fan of this Shakespearean tragedy.  I enjoyed teaching it to high school students (Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?  No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I bite my thumb, sir.) and I always showed them the gorgeous Franco Zeffirelli film from 1968.  (If you watch the film, look for a very young Emma Thompson as an extra in the ballroom scene.)

Romeo and Juliet, 1968 (IMDb image)

Romeo and Juliet, 1968 (IMDb image)

In 2003, Winnipeg’s Shakespeare in the Ruins theatre company did an unforgettable version of it, set in a downtown parkade.  I think it was one of the most creative and engaging theatre performances I have attended.  Ever.

I enjoy dance, and have a fondness for most classical ballet.  I was looking forward to the show.  The title typography, Romeo + Juliet,  promised a fresh take on the story, just as the film, Romeo + Juliet had done in 1996.  Click here for the movie trailer.  (If you haven’t seen the film, be prepared for the very in-your-face, distopian setting.)

Romeo + Juliet, 1996 (IMDb image)

Romeo + Juliet, 1996 (IMDb image)

Dance Victoria and Ballet BC made the brave, financially challenging and wise decision to cancel the performances, to avoid the spread of the virus.  Fortunately, season ticket holders were given a link to a video of the première performance in Vancouver, on March 6.

I watched the performance twice, before the link expired.  Wowser!  It is, indeed, a creative interpretation of a classic story.  It did not disappoint.

The choreography is by Medhi Walerski, set to Sergei Prokofiev’s score. Walerski is a dancer and a choreographer at the Nederlands Dans Theater.  (May I suggest that if you are going down any rabbit holes today, please avail yourself of the NDT link.)

The show is visually stunning, with the costumes, set and lighting design a collaboration between Walerski,  Theun Mosk, and Pierre Pontvianne.  The minimalist style is a marked departure from many interpretations of other classical “story” ballets, such as The Nutcracker.  Here are a few brief video images that will give you a sense of the style of this production.  I appreciated how the lighting changed, depending on the scene.  The chiaroscuro-style lighting was particularly effective in the ballroom scene, as Romeo and Juliet were spotlit amongst the corps, who sometimes moved in slow motion, and sometimes became completely still, signalling an important moment in time.  It allowed the audience to focus on the couple, and not be distracted by the other dancers.

The set was minimal. The movable rectangles, decidedly coffin shaped,  were symbolic and functional.

The dancers were strong, confident and lyrical.  They were as much actors, as they are talented dancers.  Here is a (too) short video of the creation of the ballet at the Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity.

Ballet BC, Romeo + Juliet

Walerski uses the corps to express the emotions of the characters.  In the scond act,  when Juliet prepares to drink the sleeping potion, the corps is a shadowed, writhing mass on the floor, and around her. It dramatically represents her fear, anxiety and turmoil. The image of the scenes will stay with me for a long time.

Ballet BC and Medhi Walerski have created a noteworthy interpretation of this classic ballet.  I hope we can all see this as a live performance one day.  In the meantime, one last short video from Ballet BC’s Romeo + Juliet.