The Alberta Ballet in Love Lies Bleeding.
Walking towards the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, I know right away this is not going to be a run-of-the-mill night at the ballet. From the rolled-out red carpet and the “paparazzi” snapping photos of giggly theatre-goers posing in an assortment of dayglow feather boas and sporting oversized, tinted sunglasses, you can sense something is up. Specifically, it’s the opening of Alberta Ballet’s Love Lies Bleeding. In a “this is your life” full-length ballet, the Broadway-esque work is a tribute to the musical works of Sir Elton John and lyricist Bernie Taupin.
With a budget of more than a million dollars, the 90-minute visual extravaganza chronicles John’s life from childhood to the ups and downs of stardom. Rollercoastering through addiction, fame, fighting with demons, coming out and brushes with death, the choreographic sections are structured like a set list and paired with 14 of the pop star’s tunes, opening with a baseball-themed, silver bat-swingin’ number to “Bennie and the Jets.” Here we meet the Elton John fan, Yukichi Hattori, who is cast as our spritely guide through this glitzy voyage that eventually lands on planet “Rocket Man.” Against a swirly constellation, dancers wear red lights and Hattori, glides across the stage in roller skates to the melodies of this 1972 hit that touches upon the themes of isolation and fear.
With an androgynous cast of 31, costume designer Martine Bertrand must have had a hoot concocting the more than 60 wigs and 150 costumes — but no mohair suits — that included sparkly codpieces for both guys and gals, an almost larger-than-dancer chandelier hat, and a Marge Simpson-like, sky-high, white-powdered dandy wig. Drag queens dancing in teetering high-heels, shirtless men in gold skorts and g-strings galore; the costumes, coupled with archival, and psychedelic kaleidoscope projections, were quite a playful eyeful.
In all the hoopla, amidst the feathers, bling, and fairy dust, the actual dancing was secondary. The moments where the dance managed to shine through the glitz were during the stripped-down segments where there were fewer dancers on stage. The talented and agile company dancer Hattori was the definite star of the show. “In Someone Saved My Life Tonight,” Hattori flies across the stage with feather angel wings and grand jetés.
Quebec-born artistic Jean Grand-Maître took the reins of the western ballet company in 2005, and since has created a series of full-length ballets inspired by modern music icons such as Joni Mitchell and Sarah McLachlan. In May, the company will première Balletlujah, which was created with k.d. lang. Set in the prairies, the work follows a journey and a love story between two women.
If you are an Elton John fan, you will definitely appreciate this show for reasons beyond the dance. If not, save yourself the price of admission and check out the television adaptation of the piece here. ■
Love Lies Bleeding played April 11-14 at Place des Arts.