23 Minutes of Absolute Elegance

When thinking of ballet performances; visions of dim lighting, fluffy tutus and perfectly positioned ballerinas initially come to mind. To say the least, this conception was significantly altered after attending a preview of choreographer Nicolo Fonte’s 23-minute and still unnamed piece, which will premiere at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre’s Inverse show on the weekend of November 22nd.

Upon entering the ScotiaBank Dance Centre, the rehearsal space for this piece, I thought I would only be watching a rehearsal of a contemporary ballet piece. What I didn’t realize, and was pleasantly surprised with, was that this rehearsal included interjections by Nicolo that gave the audience insight into the creative process that enraptures a choreographer, or any creative for that matter. With parts unfinished and scene changes more staccato than flowing, Nicolo took these raw, unfinished moments to explain to the audience what he was thinking of changing or to simply say that he was still working on the ‘vision’ for this part. And when he was finished thinking out loud to the audience, the dancers would continue their beautiful, fluid moments. It was exactly this that gave this showing of the performance its endearment factor.

So far this piece is designed as a triptych; three different pieces of music by three separate composers that gel together wonderfully.  The piece began with intensity and the dancers appeared on stage with an obvious strength. The intensity between different groups of dancers and individuals was reminiscent of West Side Story’s Sharks and the Jets. The presence of the dancers made us, as an audience want to know what exactly they were fighting for. As the first portion of the piece finished there was a break to move around some of the sets and Nicolo introduced the second part of the triptych as more melancholic – which it most certainly was. This portion only included three dancers: a woman in the background and a male partner dance. This portion, such a shift from the first part, was graceful, elegant and touching. Also, as Nicolo explained to us following the piece, it was still unfinished.  The girl, who walked across the back of the stage while the men performed, has a purpose.  What her presence means, or how her part will finish in the scene, however, was still a work in progress.

As the dancers moved into the third, and most ‘in progress part’, the onstage emotion became joyful. Nicolo then jumped in, jubilantly and abruptly, to let us audience know that he is still working on the ending; and with that, the audience was left hanging in the most anticipative of ways.

Nicolo and the Artistic Director, Emily Fonte, were both available for a question and answer period afterwards. One bold soul asked the question, which I’m sure everyone was dying to know, ‘What is it about?’ To which Nicolo responded: “If I could say it in words, I would have no need to choreograph it.” Well said. Staying true to the idea of art for art’s sake, the experience of watching this piece was entirely subjective. And trust me; this will be a subjective experience. The intensity of the dancers combined with Nicolo’s obvious passion for what he does, it would be impossible to not feel something as there has been so much soul and vision put into this piece. I found myself trying to figure out the story, only to realize that it’s about emotion, and more importantly, yours, as the viewer.

The stop and go of the rehearsal performance proved to be an enlightening, behind the scenes look at creative souls. What do choreographers and dancers think about when putting together 23 minutes? It goes something like this: Do I need a transition? How exactly should I place someone? I have an idea of putting someone here so I will, but I haven’t fully developed why yet. Nicolo’s honesty of the piece and interjections presented such a clear image of how a choreographer comes up with ideas and the dancers give them form.  The striking adjectives that came to mind when watching a very raw version were fluidity, symmetry, intensity and soul. Combine that reaction on an emotional level with words from the man with the artistic vision, you can’t help but realize just how much of a person goes into 23 minutes.

Even in ‘raw form’, this piece is beautiful and intense. The feeling involved in watching and participating in Nicolo’s internal dialogue makes it almost hard to believe that it is unfinished with there being so much character and humanity in the dancers and in the mind of the creator.

I would most certainly suggest you check out the Inverse show, even if only for this yet-to-be-named piece. If your experience viewing the finished piece is anything like mine, you will be far from disappointed viewing this mesmerizing show in its’ entirety.  I would also suggest checking out the ScotiaBank Dance Centre and to perhaps get involved in the beautiful local and international community it supports.

Ballet BC: Inverse in Vancouver plays at Queen Elizabeth Thursday November 22nd, 23rd and 24th at 8.00pm.