Stijn Celis puts the cinder back in Cinderella with new commission for Les Grands Ballets
The old adage "if the shoe fits" doesn’t for Antwerp-based Stijn Celis. The choreographer, who last year wowed audiences with his revisionist Les Noces for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, was commissioned by the company to retool Cinderella. The result is Celle qui, dit-on, aurait perdu sa chaussure, a challenging theatrical production that digs deeply into the notions of family, and the themes of journey and metamorphosis. "It’s about the way to kill the father and mother and go into the world to live your own life," says Celis. "It has a great message for love or human caring, more than some abstract theme."
Celis and Czech dramaturge and filmmaker Janek Ruzicka have not changed the elements of Charles Perrault’s classic fairy tale, nor have they tampered with the Prokofiev score. Rather, they’ve been inspired by the source material and given it a personal reading. For Ruzicka, the Cinderella story is "layered with lacquer. It’s a fairy tale created in many variations in different cultures. But there’s something very true in the story, which is universal." Celis finds the iconography attached to Cinderella "really stifling." He’s aware of various other dance productions, but "I don’t need the reference. I want to do it out of a genuine idea, not taking notice of anything before it," he says.
This Cinderella is a wan, unhappy girl, who really lacks for affection. Only memories of her dead mother provide her with solace. She is surrounded by an evil domineering stepmother, two bitchy sisters and a distant father who has an obsession with oranges. In the piece guys play the evil gals. The oppressive environment in which Cinderella stagnates was best represented by a harder, antagonistic male energy that the choreographer feels women couldn’t necessarily embody. And the prince and Cinderella form an unconventional couple. "I work a lot from the handicaps and the dysfunction as well as their velvet parts," the choreographer says.
Celis’s gambit is to look at his dancers "as wells of possibility, and often possibilities that they are not aware of themselves. [Dancers] are educated in a certain way, and asked to behave and to respond to things in a certain way. I try to bring [out] what they don’t know was inside." It’s sometimes a very painful process, he admits. "[But] when the click happens, they have the ‘a-ha’ experience, and they really go for it. It works from the inside out. It’s very precious, and it’s never meant for decorative purposes, but content purposes."
Édouard Lock’s new film, Amelia, an adapatation of his stage choreography of the same name, is a visually exquisite piece. The great cinematographer André Turpin keeps the images crisp and cool. Lock has designed a set that is utterly entrancing – a four-sided wood-slatted cylinder in which the joints curve and envelop the dancers. Lock also edits with hyperkinetic precision – it’s a supremely seamless job of intercutting. And the La La La Human Steps dancers are in top form. Their mechanical doll/cyber guise and emotional containment is chilling. The result is an hour-long film (shot on super 16, then transferred to high-definition) that satisfies. With David Lang’s score and a song cycle from Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground period. To be screened on CBC TV’s Opening Night, November 27.
Celle qui, dit-on, aurait perdu sa chaussure
Oct. 23 and 25, Place des Arts