Les Grands Ballets performance at Pillow bold and fun

The sterling Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal is unleashed loose and wild this week at Jacob
Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal in "Four Seasons."
Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal in "Four Seasons."

Categories: Entertainment, Life & Arts, News

The sterling Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal is unleashed loose and wild this week at Jacob’s Pillow. Mauro Bigonzetti, Italy’s premier choreographer, has created two new works for the company, both of which are on display and both of which are bold and mostly captivating.

Of the two, “Four Seasons,” set to Vivaldi’s familiar score, is the more mature. Bigonzetti is clearly inspired by the same thing as Vivaldi — nature. And while the composer depicts the flora, Bigonzetti considers the fauna.

There is a lovely naturalistic quality to this dance. The curtain parts with the dance in progress (just like stepping outside the door and instantly seeing the world pace forward). The cast of 26, in pairs, moves en masse or in a wave — the men flinging the women from their arms, pulling them back again close with a slap and then the women collapsing in a back bend once safe in the men’s arms. As the stage is crowded, this moving tableau is impressive and fascinating.

The dancers give way, leaving Vanesa G.R. Montoya alone. Without all the slicing limbs and bending torsos, the audience gets a clear vision of Bigonzetti’s mode of movement. He paints the female dancers as birds. With Montoya’s shoulders and arms pressed behind back and her elbows crooked, she refers to the classical ballerina as swan. Her hands and fingers are flattened too, like beaks jabbing in search of insects or flower buds.

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal

WHERE: Jacob’s Pillow, Route 20, Becket, Mass.

WHEN: 8 p.m. today and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

HOW MUCH: $58; $53 for seniors, students and children 16 and younger

MORE INFO: (413) 243-0745 or www.jacobspillow.org

Then again, in one of Bigonzetti’s fluid transitions, the men rush in, like stags, smashing Montoya’s quiet serenity. The choreographer does this again and again, gathering crowds and then melting them away to reveal the next solo or pas de deux.

There are several outstanding ones. Robin Mathes and Jean-Sebastien Couture play a flirtatious game — drawing near in glee and then separating, pretending to be indifferent. Marie-Eve Lapointe and Robert Deskins are also forceful as a couple. Holding her leg pressed against her ear for the duration, she dances with Deskins who entangles himself in her free limbs while manipulating her into tenuous positions.

Other standouts were Isabelle Paquette, rippling her muscles with her back to the audience, and Callye Robinson, frozen in midrun en pointe, as Jeremy Galdeano jockeys her.

As the music is fresh and lilting, Bigonzetti inserts light moments too by juxtaposing staid and upright movements with plodding ones. On Wednesday, the men did not always keep it together in the group sections, but everyone looked to enjoy the dance. That mirth extended beyond the footlights.

“Cantata,” set to southern Italian songs as sung by Gruppo Musicale Assurd, is a lively barn dance in which men and women eye each other and then pair off. There is a carnal and exotic flavor to the dance that, earlier this week, felt contrived.

The quartet of women, who sing and play the tambourine, concertina and castanets, are marvelous. They look like they were plucked out of the hills of Naples and dropped into the Berkshires. But the dancers are too polished to match the musicians’ folksiness.

The music is so engaging, both in beauty and bounce, that it is impossible not to be swept up, at least a little, in “Cantata.”

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