In 2010, the Alberta Ballet’s world premiere of Love Lies Bleeding was greeted with much critical acclaim. After seeing opening night in Edmonton of this year’s performance, it’s easy to see why.
Jean Grand-Maitre’s production takes the immensely popular music of Elton John and Bernie Taupin and blends it with ballet that you don’t have to be an expert – or even a regular ballet-goer- to appreciate. Love Lies Bleeding proves the Alberta Ballet’s artistic prowess by combining exploration of difficult themes such as drug use, pain, joy, and love by incorporating some of the world’s most famous music, while keeping the ballet accessible to all audiences.
The show begins with an upbeat rendition of “Benny and the Jets” (pictured), which establishes the mood for the rest of the production – impressive physical feats, a “show-biz” atmosphere, and beautiful costumes adorned with glitter. Each song of the 14 song performance seemed to be its own mini-production – complete with costume and set changes.
While “Benny and the Jets” begins the production on an uplifting, positive note, it doesn’t stay that way for long. The “inner demons” are soon introduced and the interplay between Elton Fan (Yukichi Hattori) and the demons are both beautiful and heartbreaking to watch. My favorite song was “Have Mercy on the Criminal” – set against a deep red backdrop, the inner demons taunt, tease, drag, and pull Elton Fan. The emotion Hattori conveys through the way he moves his body – the short, jerky attempts to get away, or the long, fluid movements during his drug-induced euphoria – gave me a new appreciation for the ballet dancers as not only dancers, but actors. The only thing that could have improved the “Have Mercy on the Criminal” scene is a slight change in lighting – which was used near the end of the scene – to emphasize the darkness of the inner demons. For the brief period more dramatic lighting was used – casting the inner demon’s dark shadows against the red curtain backdrop – was breathtaking.
Edmonton’s opening night saw a well-deserved long standing ovation – as, I’m sure, it has every night it has been performed. It’s easy to see why – ballet has a reputation for being for “the elite” – but Love Lies Bleeding makes ballet accessible to the rest of us. From the costumes, to the music, to the emotional vulnerability the dancers convey, to the sheer beauty when all of these elements are combined – Love Lies Bleeding demonstrates you don’t need to know what a pas de deux or an arabesque is to appreciate ballet, or the stories it tells.
Love Lies Bleeding runs in Edmonton from May 10 – 12 at the Jubilee Auditorium.
– Jenna Marynowski