The first thing to say about Vancouver-based Ballet British Columbia is how fricking good the dancers are. Fantastic technique, genuine artistry and terrific musicality – they simply mean what they do. The women look equally as comfortable when bare-foot as they do on pointe, the men are in incredible shape, and together they’re all frighteningly in synch.
This was the Company’s first visit to London and if they wanted to make a good impression they succeeded. Emily Molnar’s ensemble piece 16 + a room was a fine start; the first section in particular showing the dancers at their best. On a dark, empty stage and dressed in black, their togetherness in negotiating Dirk P Haubrich’s harsh electronic rhythms was exemplary. The softer strains of the middle section, while still impressive, lagged a little and the piece had run out of steam by the end but it was nevertheless something of an eye-opener.
As is so often the case nowadays, it was Crystal Pite who provided the best work of the evening. Solo Echo was created on Nederlands Dans Theater but the Canadians have made it their own. It’s a thing of tremendous beauty; snow falling is hardly original but in an oasis of black, it looked magical. The partnering in the first section was extraordinary – performed at enormous speed, it was slick, inventive and in total harmony with Brahms’ Cello Sonata.
This is where Pite scores over so many of her rivals, and why her work is also in such demand with ballet companies – she’s so musical. But she’s not always musical in the way you expect; in Solo Echo, there’s a short sequence where the dancers stand up one by one in time to a series of plucked bass strings. At first it looks like the last guy has stood up too early, only for him to start a new movement perfectly attuned to the final note. With Pite it’s often like the dancers are fingers playing a harp.
Last up was Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s white unitard-clad Bill. It started well with a couple of excellent male solos to a screwy cha-cha-cha but then drifted off into nowhere along with Ori Lichtik’s club-like ‘soundtrack design’. There was some engaging stuttered movement akin to that in Daft Punk’s Around the World music video but the quasi-spiritual ending was out of step with everything that had bounced along before.
After one more date at Sadler’s Wells, Ballet British Columbia then head off on a three week tour of the UK that takes them to Brighton, Newcastle, Birmingham, Salford and Bradford. It’s definitely worth catching them if you can – they’re superb. You can find tickets and more info on the Dance Consortium website.