‘Class Acts’ at Alberta Ballet

The Alberta Ballet saw the final performance of the season with the world premiere of Class Acts. Choreographed by the company’s own director, Jean Grand-Maître, Class Acts was a collection of performance repertoire paying homage to the great dance films featuring Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, Judy Garland, Charlie Chaplin and many more. Grand-Maître, inspired by the excitement and show-biz quality of the 30s and 40s, choreographed a stunning season-end ballet piece for his dance company.

What I really loved about Class Acts as a final performance was that each dancer of the company was able to showcase their dance form. Everyone had a part in creating this masterful showpiece. From the lifts to spins and different genres of dance, Class Acts challenged the Alberta Ballet to be more than just ballet dancers, but to be dancers who encompassed whole body movement while connecting with music from the silver screen of dance films.

Hayna Gutierrez and Dayron Vera - Photos by Paul McGrath
Hayna Gutierrez and Dayron Vera – Photos by Paul McGrath

Class Acts opened with a black and white reel and vintage music to set the stage of a movie director taking a walk down memory lane of the movies he has directed. He sees himself as a young man, remembering all the wonderful and hard times of creating movies. The ballet opened with a company number of Puttin’ on the Ritz, full of pizazz and energy, the opening number brought the audience back to a time we never knew but could fully appreciate. Class Acts ended with the jazzy Ain’t Nobody’s Business performed by Billie Holiday to round up a celebration of dance and music. The ballet was a fun pastiche of musical numbers incorporating elements from ballet, jazz and tap. There were solos and duets and a couple company numbers. Overall it was a fantastic way to end the season.

My favourite segments were I’m A Fool to Want You, My Funny Valentine, and of course Moon River. The star for me during the Edmonton Premiere night was Kelley McKinlay. He did a fantastic job of connecting with his partner, the story, choreography and the music. Throughout the choreography, McKinlay exhibited his strength and dance talent, personifying a man in love; he took the main stage, yet was a supportive partner, ensuring Maiko Kondo was also able to showcase her talents and elegance. The other star of the night for me was Ian Buchanan. His role as Paul Varjak from Breakfast at Tiffany’s was refreshing yet stayed true to his character. He danced it beautifully and also supported Akiko Ishii who portrayed the role of Holly Golighty. She was the star of the pair, dancing a whimsical Audrey in a world of her own. It was such a joy to be part of a show that transported me back to the era of silver screen performances.

Ryo Shimizu and Ian Buchanan - Photos by Paul McGrath
Ryo Shimizu and Ian Buchanan – Photos by Paul McGrath

As it was a world premiere, all set and costume design were originals of the ballet. The design of Class Acts was absolutely amazing and probably one of the best I’ve seen in contemporary ballet. It had the moving element of backdrops, interchangeable throughout the performance. The lighting all came together and provided for the perfect ambience for a 30’s and 40’s production.

During the season, the Alberta Ballet has shown its maturity through the premiere of several high profile ballets including Madame Butterfly, Ailey II, and the highly acclaimed Giselle. 2014/15 looks to be a great season filled with pieces like Don Quixonte, a world premiere of Carmen, as well as The Three Musketeers.