The Rite Stuff

Ballet Preljocaj presents Helikopter and The Rite Of Spring, choreography by angelin preljocaj at Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queen's Quay.


Ballet Preljocaj presents Helikopter and The Rite Of Spring, choreography by angelin preljocaj at Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queen’s Quay West), November 13 to 17, Wednesday to Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 3 pm. $21-$37.50. 416-973-4000.

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You need cajones and a whole lot of talent to take on the dance classics.But the folks at Ballet Preljocaj can back it up.

After all, the French troupe headed by Albanian-born artistic director Angelin Preljocaj solidified its international rep in the 90s by mounting new versions of Ballets Russes classics like Les Noces, Parade and Le Spectre De La Rose.

Now they’re touring Preljocaj’s version of The Rite Of Spring, the ballet that, with a score by Stravinsky and choreography by Nijinsky, ushered in the modern era.

The ritualistic work has inspired some of the best choreographers, like Pina Bausch, to dare to reinterpret it. Preljocaj goes one further.

“This is first of all a feminist version of the piece,” says company spokesperson Youri Van den Bosch, on the road with the troupe in Phoenix, Arizona. Preljocaj himself is sequestered away in Aix-en-Provence creating the company’s next work.

“It takes us from civilization as we know it today and goes backward in time, becoming more and more primitive. And in the end, the last person who’s standing is a woman.”

Feminist? Some critics have pointed out the work’s disturbing imagery, including a gang rape.

“There is some violence against women in the piece,” he admits. “But she’s the survivor, she’s the chosen one. Preljocaj’s ideas about the strength of women come through.”

It’s tempting to link the choreographer’s Albanian heritage with his social vision.

“The work does seem to be political, to always have a social conscience,” says Van den Bosch.

A Preljocaj version of Romeo And Juliet was set, not without controversy, in a concentration camp.

But that doesn’t mean the choreographer shies away from more abstract works.

Helikopter, the opening piece on the much-anticipated double bill, uses the famous Stockhausen piece for string quartet and helicopter to explore the interplay of movement, sound and light.

There won’t be an actual helicopter onstage. Infrared cameras take the dancers’ images and electronically translate them into water-like projections onto the floor.

“In the music, the musicians struggle with the weight of the sound of the helicopter,” says Van den Bosch. “It’s harder for them to interact together as in a more traditional quartet.

“Likewise with the movement. The dancers have to be really strong and heavy — otherwise, they disappear between the sound and the image.”glenns@nowtoronto.comdance preview

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