Rhodes over the ocean
Is dance Quebec’s new religion? Les Grands Ballets Canadiens’ new director reckons so. and tells Ellie Carr how he
plans to address his Scottish congregation.
The) breed 'cm differently in Montreal. Either that or there’s something in the water. All signs currently pointing to the French-speaking Quebccois island cit)’ sa). ‘Montreal Dance Centre of the World' Dr at least they should. With a population of two million. the city boasts a staggering ﬁll-odd incorporated dance Companies. Of that number the majority eke out their art at the sharp end of the 00s dance scene. La La La Human Steps. Fondation .leand’ierrc l’errault and (‘ompagnie Marie (‘houinard are just a handful of the artists who‘ve helped add fuel to idea that Montreal is where today‘s radical dance activity begins and ends. The avant-garde aside. Montreal also has a thriving rriairrstr'earri. at the centre of which sits Les (it‘ands‘ Ballets Canadiens. liar less grand than their title suggests. the company consists of 32 classical/comemporar'y trained dancers and a cover-all repertoire that
straddles dance history from all-frills Comic/[u to llounee-free Mark Morris. Founded in 1057 - on the eve of the cultural revolution that swept Quebec and deposed the (‘hurch —— the company has been constant witness to the rise of the Montreal‘s modern dance scene. No one is more aware of this than Les Grands” newly appointed director Lawrence Rhodes. recently flown in from the USA. where dance — despite being a major cultural activity
considerably thinner on the ground. ; 'Without douth he says. ‘Montreal‘s a very important dance town.‘
Despite being an incomer to the province. Rhodes sees a direct link between the cultural upheaval of (ills Quebec and its hothouse dance scene. ‘When they overthrew the church. they changed their conditions of living. They took dancing from the sinful shadows and put it on the stage. ‘ Somehow it was right there when things started to change. Dance was an important part of that change.’
As you might expect. this scenario has ; thrown rip optimum conditions for today's Les (hands. with the company occupying an almost reverse position to l their European and l‘S counterparts. I who battle to get bums on seats. ‘Yorr i feel like people will come.‘ Rhodes says. ‘And you know they ‘ll appreciate : something about what you're doing.’
What Les (Brands are doing is filling a i void between the young turks of the
‘When they overthrew the church, they changed their conditions of living. They ; took dancing from the sinful shadows and put it i on the stage.’
rrorri'cl/c (lunse scene and the classic- centred fare offered by (‘anada‘s other two major ballet companies. Mark Morris -- that megastar of modern 1 dance — is typical of this. lle‘s created ' two works for the company (and from the mighty Morris that's a big compliment). both of which are vibrant and exciting. but undeniably mainstrearri. and big enough to require : a large. classically-trained company to execute them.
The rest of Les (irands’ rep reads like a W/m's Who of dance history. Works by Mexican-American modern dance exponent Jose Limon get cosy with the radical breakaway ballets of William linsytlt. while the athletic lyricism of cherlands Dans Theater director Jiri Kylian nuules tip to the sharp. sassy
Classical training meets modern inﬂuences in Rassemblement,
stuff of young New Yorker Kevin
()'Da_v. With their stretch—to-tit rep and ; upbeat marketing style. Les (irands ‘ look a lot like Rambert - Britain's
biggest. sexiest dance company.
. Rhodes agrees with that one. ‘Yeab.’ he chimes. ‘l'd imagine we are.’
One fumlamental difference remains.
Rambert wouldn‘t touch trad ballet like ('o/r/rri/iu with a bargepole. Les (irands
embrace it with open arms. All of
which means that unlike Rambert. I who dropped ballet from their title long ’
- the Quebccois crew are holding
on to the ballet moniker. ‘lt can sound a
; ‘lispecially if_vou go “
choreographed by Nacho Duato
bit pretentious.~ admits Rhodes. (ir'ands Ballets".
; But it‘s part of our identity?
liut Rhodes claims fresh new
. creations are his key concern. 'lt‘s an
important thing to do. whether it works
; or not.‘ he says 'lt's important to ' contribute to the development of the art
form. l"m definitely anti-rirtrserrrir'
I,” (Int/Ids Ila/Iris ('rr/rm/ir'ns /l('l'/(ll‘lll
: (l Hip/c /)r// /r\ .l/(H'A ,llm'r/s. Keir/r (Y
Day and Hum lim .llum n (1/ [hr [vi/1e 's
Theatre. (i/rtseou. 'l'lrm'x 25 Sr]! 37
A way with the fairies
You could not accuse Grid Iron Theatre Company of lacking ambition. Clearance, their forthcoming production at the Traverse, is a play with a pretty broad scope. ‘lt’s about the power of stories,’ explains the new company’s founding director Catriona Murray. ‘Specifically, the power of the individual to use stories against powerful organisations, institutions and so on.’
The trick of tackling big topics, though, is to concentrate on details and characters. Clearance is set in a house which is about to be repossessed. The furniture is packed up ready to go into storage, and in an almost bare room a woman and a boy
sit telling stories. But stories gain 5 power in the telling, power enough to I shape real events. ; This kind of highly symbolic play is a new departure for writer Anita Sullivan, whose previous work . (Crashing, Just Whores) focused firmly on the everyday. ‘I sometimes think
people play safe by relying on kitchen % «;
sink dramas,’ says Murray. ‘You know, i just two people and two chairs. This is ‘ a very symbolic, very atmospheric play.’ Sullivan worked for five months g with Grid Iron developing the play, and the result so impressed Fringe
Festival director Hilary Strong that she ‘
auditioned for - and was cast in - a key part. 3 One recurring theme in the play is ' the ballad of Tam lin, a traditional song about a woman who is spirited away and impregnated by the fairies, then angers the fairy queen, who threatens to rip her heart out. Another is the hare, which symbolises both life and death, though Grid Iron are at pains to stress that the bare used in the production is treated humanely.
Hare apparent: a life and death role in Grid lron’s Clearance
Like the highly successful Bondagers, Clearance is a play in which ghosts and folk tales have as central a role as the characters themselves. Perhaps Grid Iron have
given them an opportunity to speak out. (Catriona Smith)
Clearance, Grid Iron Theatre Company, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 1—Sun 5 May.
50 The List I‘) Apr-2 May 1996