Allison Crowe Returns to the Dance as “The Doorway” Opens Wider with RWB Maritime Tour

“Working with the RWB is going to be such an awesome experience – even to just watch these amazing people dance is gift enough,” musician Allison Crowe told CBC TV “SCENE” Producer Andrea Ratuski this May – just before the World Premiere opening of “The Doorway” (http://www.cbc.ca/manitoba/scene/theatre/2012/05/09/pure-ballet). “I am humbled to be able to be a part of such a beautiful project, in tribute to such a wonderfully talented and brilliant man, Leonard Cohen.”

Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet is the first company anywhere in the world to stage a production melding works of the Montreal-born singer-songwriter, musician, poet, and novelist. In 1970, during the tenure of Artistic Director Arnold Spohr, “The Shining People of Leonard Cohen”, choreographed by Brian Macdonald, opened in Paris and at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre.

Again, in tune with the zeitgeist, RWB Artistic Director André Lewis today oversees an evolution of his company’s dance works wedded to the words and music of Cohen. For the 2011 Genie Awards, Jorden Morris, choreographer of tremendous successes “Peter Pan” (2006 premiere) and “Moulin Rouge – The Ballet” (2009 – and touring currently to record audiences), created a sensuous pas de deux embracing Cohen’s song “Dance Me to the End of Love”.

In “The Doorway: Scenes from Leonard Cohen”, Morris choreographs five songs/poems – “Bird on a Wire”, “Hallelujah”, “The Letters”, “Since You Asked” (written by Judy Collins, recited by Leonard Cohen), “Sisters of Mercy” – and lattices these with spoken word/interview segments.

“Leonard Cohen’s music comes to life at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet” declared the CBC, Canada’s national public broadcaster, earlier this year. Pierre Meunier, writing in La Liberté, set it this way: “Chacune des cinq scènes est un petit bijou.” En Anglais: “Each of the five scenes is a small jewel.”

CHVN Radio’s Adrienne Daniels reported on opening night: “the triumph of this performance was Mr. Cohen himself. He wasn’t there, but the RWB used audio from interviews he did regarding the songs being danced to and it gave such an incredible insight into the performance that it took it to that magical level. Where spirit and art connect and you FEEL the music. You feel it in your soul, it’s tangible with your hands and you can literally taste it.” And the audience loved it. Longtime RWB subscriber Dan Aysan posted: “‘The Doorway’ was a wild mix of dance, live music and spoken word that surprised me with its depth and simplicity (how often do you get dancers’ movements , Leonard Cohen’s words & music with a smattering of Peter Gzowski’s voice mashed up on stage ?!?)”.

During the first run of “The Doorway”, Canada’s bi-coastal singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, Allison Crowe, joined the RWB on-stage to perform “Hallelujah” – with the dance role alternating between Sophia Lee and Jo-Ann Gudilin (nee Sundermeier). “Spine-tingling” says Holly Harris, dance reviewer for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Allison Crowe, pictured here in Verona, Italy – returns to Canada and the ballet – Billie Woods foto

Crowe’s “Hallelujah”, first released in 2003, has secured a place as one of the most-loved interpretations of this Cohen masterwork – in her live performances, nationally and internationally, and on YouTube, where her single, first, take performance, captured for less than $100, has more than eight million views. In a rave review of a concert on her most recent European tour, Peter Baier, culture writer for “Süddeutsche Zeitung“, Germany’s largest national subscription daily newspaper, observes: “Allison Crowe performs the song without any trace of kitsch” and says it is “gooseflesh (bump) music”.

“Crowe’s version is a living thing, a meditation and a celebration and a benediction,” explains Canada’s anacronym blog. “Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah‘… as performed by Allison Crowe, may be one of the most amazing things ever recorded onto magnetic tape,” adds America’s Semper Ubi Sub Ubi blog. Blogger Stephen Thomas, a founder of the UK’s Folkroom Records, and a judge of Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent says, “Simply, a song so beautiful has never been sung so beautifully.”

Emotional honesty is the hallmark of Allison Crowe’s repertoire. Now, with “The Doorway” heading on tour to Canada’s Maritime provinces, she’s delighted to accept an invitation from the RWB to reprise this vocal/piano collaboration with the company’s marvellous dancers, and, also, to duet on a new arrangement of “Bird on a Wire” alongside legendary U.S.-based singer-songwriter Cris Williamson – whose acapella, live, recording of “Sisters of Mercy” featured incandescently in the debut, and returns – this time live-on-stage – for the next, steps of “The Doorway”.

Williamson is, in her own right, a cultural and social icon – an artist who’s played Carnegie Hall, created an album, “The Changer and the Changed“, that is to the independent music world what Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is to mainstream pop ie. a “game-changer” (released in 1975, the album’s sold over 500,000 copies), and one who’s thrived outside the establishment record industry for decades – and long before the internet opened new avenues for musicians. She’s hero to countless women and men who’ve fought for sexual and social freedoms across America. Additionally, like Leonard Cohen, Cris Williamson is in the finest voice of her musical career and can bridge the wild spirit of youth and the wisdom of experience.

All this, and plenty more, is coming to the Maritimes – as the RWB includes “The Doorway” in its upcoming mixed repertoire program: “a virtuosic quadruple-bill which features Peter Quanz’s In Tandem, Brian Macdonald’s Pas D’action… and William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude,” notes the Fredericton Playhouse, one of the venues on this tour, in its neat summation of the action. “Experience the thrill of live dance performance with a stunning contrast in classical and contemporary styles courtesy of the foremost ballet company in Canada.”

For full details on the tour and the four exceptional dance works on the bill, visit the Royal Winnipeg Ballet @ http://www.rwb.org , the Fredericton Playhouse blog post “RWB MAKES TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO ATLANTIC CANADA” @ http://fredplayhouse.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/rwb-makes-triumphant-return-to-atlantic-canada , Halifax’s Live Art Dance Productions @ http://www.liveartproductions.ca/shows/mixed-program – and sites of each venue listed below:

Royal Winnipeg Ballet – MARITIME TOUR:

Halifax, NS – November 7-8, 2012 – In Tandem, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, The Doorway, and Pas D’Action – Rebecca Cohn Theatre – 8:00pm

Fredericton, NB – November 9, 2012 – In Tandem, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, The Doorway, and Pas D’Action – The Playhouse 7:30pm

Charlottetown, PEI – November 10, 2012 – In Tandem, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, The Doorway, and Pas D’Action – Confederation Centre of the Arts - 7:30pm

Saint John, NB – November 12, 2012 – In Tandem, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, The Doorway, and Pas D’Action – Imperial Theatre – 7:30pm

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Große Stimme – Allison Crowe

Published in the print edition of “Süddeutsche Zeitung“, Germany’s largest national subscription daily newspaper, is this review of the latest concert in the tour of Allison Crowe and Billie Woods. The article, penned by kultur journalist Peter Baier, is not yet translated into English language. Still, any discussion of Allison’s musik that references Leonard Cohen and Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” has a solid grasp of things, so, we’re happy now, and will only become more happy :)

click image above to see full newspaper copy

Süddeutsche Zeitung, Dienstag, den 16. Oktober 2012

Große Stimme

Die kanadische Sängerin Allison Crowe im Inninger „Spectacel“

Inning – Natürlich muss sie den von ihr gecoverten Hit singen, das Stück von Leonard Cohen, das sie erst so richtig prominent werden ließ: „Hallelujah“, gespielt miteiner wunderbar melancholischen Einleitung. Dabei kommt Allison Crowe ohne jeden Kitsch aus, singt mit großer Lautstärke, ein bisschen blues-orientiert und mit einer Hingabe, die schon fast zum Religiösen tendiert. Gänsehaut-Musik. Die Betreiber des „Spectacel“, Innings musikalisches Zentrum, haben es geschafft, Allison Crowe für einen Abend zu verpflichten. Und Crowe zeigt, was ihre hergibt.

Bereits mit ihren ersten Ansagen gewinnt die kanadische Songwriterin mit eigenem Label die Gunst des Publikums, lässt mit ihrem Koloratur-Lachen die Erwartung auf Weiteres ansteigen. Mit kräftigem Zugriff spielt Allison Crowe das Klavier, zu dessen Klang ihre leicht rauchige, ausducksstarke, kurz: große Stimme hervorragend passt. Manchmal erinnert ihr Spiel an die Tasten-Eskapaden eines Konstantin Wecker, dann wieder gibt es Momente, die an den Stil von Modest Mussorgsky’s „Bilder einer Ausstellung“ denken lassen.

Crowes Gesang bleibt auch in den Höhen absolut sicher, begeistert geradezu in den Tiefen. Wunderschöne Balladen wechseln sich ab mit harten Songs, die Texte sind stets gut verständlich. Allison Crowe greift auch zur Gitarre, begleitet ihren Gesang mit zarten Tönen. Und wechselt dann wieder zu hartem Rhythmus auf dem Klavier. Eine ähnlich starke Stimme hat auch Billie Woods, die mit ihren Liedern das Konzert eröffnet. Die ebenso attraktive wie hochmusikalische Sängerin und Gitarristin überrascht mit ungewohnten Akkordstrukturen, wofür sie ihr Instrument mehrfach umstimmt. Und dass die Gitarre eigentlich ein Rhythmusinstrument ist, belegt Billie Woods mit großer Überzeugungskraft.

Natürlich müssen beide Musikerinnen Zugaben spielen.

PETER BAIER

Allison Crowe’s Europa Tour 2012 images can be viewed in Allison’s facebook gallery – click here, and in the facebook album of musician and photographer Billie Woods – click here.

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Here’s looking at you – Allison Crowe Euro Tour 2012 foto album by Billie Woods

Musician Billie Woods shows another of her creative sides – as a photographer – in this foto album of the concert tour which launched last night in Frankfurt, Germany.

Here’s Allison Crowe pictured at Mampf, Mischi’s legendary jazzlokal. This is one of a series of images in a foto album you can explore on facebook – click here!

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Allison Crowe Concert Tour Launch: National Holiday in Germany

It’s “Tag der Deutschen Einheit” – Day of German Unity – today and Allison Crowe, one of the great performing artists of our time, or any time, launches her newest concert tour in Frankfurt amidst a wave of national celebration. As well as being present to mark the fall of the Berlin Wall and the re-union of West and East Germany in 1990 – Axel Dollheiser, Crowe’s European Road Manager, reports this visit to the continent will include a few pints at Oktoberfest in Munich.

Concert performances this month by the Canadian singer-songwriter, vocalist-pianist, Allison Crowe and special guest musician, and photographer, Billie Woods, include:

03.10.2012 – Frankfurt, Germany @ Jazzlokal Mampf
05.10.2012 – Berlin, Germany @ Evangelische Osterkirche
10.10.2012 – Mons, Belgium @ SHAPE Club
13.10.2012 – Inning Am Ammersee, Germany @ Inninger Spectacel
17.10.2012 – Florence, Italy @ Teatro del Sale
19.10.2012 – Quedlinburg, Germany @ Palais Salfeldt

We’re ready!!” says Christine Geyer, who posts this foto from Mampf, Frankfurt

Before embarking on this tour, for the past year Crowe’s been extremely active in North America where she’s served as Music Director of Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador’sNewfoundland Vinyl,” a rollicking hit at this Summer’s Gros Morne Theatre Festival. As well, she’s super-busy off-stage with movie projects, including a “Tidings Live” documentary, directed by film-maker Peter Buckle, set to premiere in December 2012.

On-stage, Crowe’s performed “Hallelujah” for the World Premiere run of “The Doorway: Scenes from Leonard Cohen” – the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s thrilling, new, Cohen-inspired ballet. This November, she rejoins the RWB as the dance, choreographed by Jorden Morris (“Moulin Rouge”), delights audiences again – and she’ll perform “Hallelujah” solo as well as duet on “Bird on a Wire” with Cris Williamson, the legendary American singer-songwriter, activist, and independent music trail-blazer.

Fuller details upcoming @ allisoncrowe.com

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RWB Steps Out – “The Doorway” to Tour Canada’s Maritimes

In this part of the Northern Hemisphere, there’s no wish for those lazy, hazy days of Summer to pass… still, in a sign of great things to come, Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet posts the next dates for “The Doorway – the resonantly rewarding ballet choreographed by Jorden Morris and set to the words and music of Leonard Cohen. (These Maritime Canada tour dates are presented in several of those same venues which launched Cohen’s triumphant return to the concert arena in 2008.)

For these Autumnal dates, Allison Crowe reprises her role performing “Hallelujah“. Cris Williamson, whose live recording of “Sisters of Mercy” capped the premiere runs, joins the RWB company to perform the song live on-stage.

Full details tba

Maritime Tour:

Halifax, NS – November 7-8, 2012 – In Tandem, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, The Doorway, and Pas D’Action – Rebecca Cohn Theatre

Fredericton, NB – November 9, 2012 – In Tandem, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, The Doorway, and Pas D’Action – The Playhouse

Charlottetown, PE – November 10, 2012 – In Tandem, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, The Doorway, and Pas D’Action – Confederation Centre of the Arts

Saint John, NB – November 12, 2012 – In Tandem, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, The Doorway, and Pas D’Action – Imperial Theatre

http://www.rwb.org/tours

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Naked Honesty: Crimson Coast’s Holly Bright Revealing and Revelling

This year, 2012, has seen much excitement and beauty emerge from choreographer Jorden Morris’ creation of Leonard Cohen-inspired ballet for Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet (the first company anywhere to present Cohen’s works as dance/theatre – with 1970s Brian Macdonald choreographed “The Shining People of Leonard Cohen”). Following the success of his “Dance Me to the End of Love” – pas de deux, a sensational highlight of the 2011 Genie Awards telecast – featuring dancers Sophia Lee and Jaime Vargas – Morris’ contemporary dance, “The Doorway – Scenes from Leonard Cohen“, enjoyed its world premiere this Spring. Pierre Meunier, reviewer for La Liberté, says of this newest RWB Cohen ballet: “Chacune des cinq scènes est un petit bijou.” (English translation: “Each of the five scenes is a small jewel.”)

Among those most delighted with news of these works by Morris and company is Holly Bright, Artistic and General Director of Crimson Coast Dance Society, based in Allison Crowe’s birthplace of Nanaimo, BC, Canada. “How wonderful that this collaboration has arisen! RWB are amazing and well-loved across the country as is Allison! I hope I get the opportunity to see it!,” Bright exclaimed upon Allison Crowe teaming up with the RWB to perform “Hallelujah” in “The Doorway”.

YouTube Preview Image

Since settling in Nanaimo in 1992, Holly Bright, choreographer and dancer, has dynamically pursued her mission to advance modern dance and dance literacy in the Harbour City and communities throughout the region. She and Allison’s creative paths crossed when the musician, (now nesting in Corner Brook, NL), was living year-round on BC’s rock – with one particularly brilliant spark emanating from a multi-disciplinary show at Nanaimo’s Port Theatre – presented by the non-profit mental health organization “Open Minds Open Windows”.

“I heard Allison sing Hallelujah at Open Minds Open Windows event we both performed in,” Holly Bright recounts. “I knew I had to dance to her version of this song and my deepest desire was to do it live. It was the perfect ending to a mixed concert around themes of life and death in a cancer society fundraising dance concert produced by Crimson Coast Dance Society.”

In my experience most interpretations of this song give it a down-and-out quality. Don’t get me wrong, these are exquisite and captivating renditions, absolutely hitting one important point of view for this song. What compelled me about Allison’s version was how I related viscerally to the hope contained within her phrasing. It is a shout that comes from deep within her. It seems to me a cry born out of the experience of being broken, of the effect of pride, of loss, of the experience of deep love, spiritual and relational and of life’s call, promise, to heal and grow.”

She composed her interpretation like an anthem, with swelling voice, in such a way as to express the pure passion of the experience of learning about love the hard way. Every sentence in that song slays me, anyway, with an impact for which there are no words. Every line breaks my heart, then proceeds to heal it. Then the ending pauses and builds are like love-making, making everything alright somehow.”

The text is sheer poetry, we all know that, and Leonard Cohen is brilliant. “Love is not a victory march, it is a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.” My God, I cannot even say those words without my heart sinking while growing at the same time. And isn’t that what we long for out of the experience of brokenness… the possibility of hope… of learning and growing… of feeling the weight of what went wrong and the healing promise that life brings.”

The challenge of creating movement for that dance that was not predictable yet that would weave metaphor into a song that was already dripping with it was delicious. Allison’s YES to my request for the privilege of performing to her singing Hallelujah was a highlight of my career. And the experience itself, on stage, her voice rising to shake the rafters where the angels hang, had me feeling naked “before the lord of song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah“.

Holly”

Holly Bright in ‘Costing Not Less Than Everything’, photo by Willow Friday (nee Chandler)

Coda: The dancer’s elemental expression pulses outward in the public pool. That reflection of this performance, one dance piece in Bright’s “This Body of Knowledge” program, is recorded by a trio of reviews published in March and April 2004:

“Holly Bright’s piece introduced the fifth artist of the evening. Allison Crowe sang a soaring rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. She caressed and scraped the lyrics turning Cohen’s song into an anthem. Bright matched this knockout performance with a solo that was sinuous, lush and beautifully phrased. The extension of her expressive arms embraced space and the emotional content of the song majestically.” ~ Russell Kilde (choreographer, theatre director, critic)

“Nanaimo’s own Holly Bright and Allison Crowe provided a stunning finale to the evening. Crowe sang Leonard Cohen¹s “Hallelujah” with a depth and power that made the song soar. Bright¹s duet with the music was filled with strength, vulnerability and intense beauty. Alternating between moments of expansion and quiet intensity, the music and the movement were woven together expertly. The result was a clear revelation of the pathos and the brilliance of human experience.” ~ Keri Wehlander (author, lyricist+)

“In the final number, Allison Crowe at the piano joined Crimson Coast’s Holly Bright for a radiant, rousing, celebratory rendition of Leonard Cohen’s lovely “Hallelujah,” with Holly’s graceful, expansive movements providing the visual corollary for Allison’s full, vibrant voice, completing the circle, merging body and spirit, body and mind.” ~ Shirley Goldberg (Film Studies instructor, writer, cinephile/critic)

In the dance, life – to quote Leonard Cohen anew – “God is alive, magic is afoot”.

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Double Dip of Leonard Cohen Ballet News

Marvellous and mysterious blogger DrHGuy, miner of many Leonard Cohen-faceted diamonds, today presents a post de deux on Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the recent engagement of musician Allison Crowe – performing Cohen’s “Hallelujah” with the RWB:

http://1heckofaguy.com/2012/06/16/allison-crowe-gets-the-pointe +

http://drhguy.posterous.com/ballet-with-allison-crowe

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RWB’s Leonard Cohen Ballet Success Rolls North in New Program

“Leonard Cohen’s music comes to life at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet“, CBC News reports earlier this month. After profoundly moving audiences during its world premiere run at Manitoba’s Centennial Concert Hall, this weekend “The Doorway – Scenes from Leonard Cohen” rolls into Northern Manitoba for performances in: The Pas, May 25; Flin Flon, May 26; and Thompson, MB, May 27. In these communities, the Jorden Morris-choreographed “Doorway” is on a program with Peter Quanz’s “In Tandem” and Brian Macdonald’s “Pas D’Action“.

In 1959, it was Brian Macdonald’s “Les Whoops-De-Doo” that the RWB premiered in Flin Flon. And, it’s another Macdonald creation, 1970’s “The Shining People of Leonard Cohen“, which premiered in Paris, France, that marked the first time a professional theatre or dance company produced the works of Canada’s iconic songsmith on stage.

Of the “Shining People” production, cultural commentator Max Wyman notes: “That was absolutely in tune with the zeitgeist. But it was intriguing stuff as well. People loved it.” (More from Wyman, and many more people on the inspiring story of the “constant phoenix” that is the RWB can be enjoyed in the award-winning documentary “40 Years of One Night Stands: The Story of Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet“.)

Of the newest ballet to the words and music of Cohen, Alison Mayes of The Winnipeg Free Press recounts: “Last year, Winnipeg’s Jorden Morris was asked to choreograph a pas de deux to Leonard Cohen’s soulful ‘Dance Me to the End of Love‘ for the nationally televised Genie Awards. It was so well received that the Royal Winnipeg Ballet commissioned Morris to create a longer work to songs by the legendary Cohen. The 44-year-old dancemaker, who teaches at the RWB School and created the company’s hits Peter Pan and Moulin Rouge” now is opening “The Doorway“.

In it, Corps de Ballet member Sophia Lee, (paired with Jaime Vargas for the Genies sensation), dances “Hallelujah” – to the voice and piano of Allison Crowe. On opening, Crowe spoke with CBC Manitoba Scene Producer Andrea Ratuski: “I feel so humbled and so grateful to be a part of this. This is such an amazing company to be able to work with and I’m just so excited. It’s so beautiful to be able to watch Sophia dance — and all the other dancers, too — all the songs. They translate so beautifully. You can kind of see the lyrics within the dance. It’s gorgeous.”

RWB’s Sophia Lee dances to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” w. Allison Crowe onstage (CBC News – screen-cap)

Feelings shared by the audience. “Spine-tingling” That’s how Holly Harris, dance reviewer for the Winnipeg Free Press, describes the ballet performance of “Hallelujah“. Dan Aysan, owner of Winnipeg’s renowned Selim’s Antiques, and RWB season ticket-holder for much of 26 years posts: “Well… the Royal Winnipeg Ballet surprised me last night. Everything I had ever wanted them to do was done! They focused on the dance and not overwhelming production… and it captivated. The lighting and sound production were fantastic… but rarely did they overshadow the dancers themselves. ‘Luminous‘ was astonishing and EXACTLY the type of work I hope the RWB considers doing more of. ‘The Doorway’ was a wild mix of dance, live music and spoken word that surprised me with it’s depth and simplicity (how often do you get dancers’ movements, Leonard Cohen’s words & music with a smattering of Peter Gzowski’s voice mashed up on stage ?!?)”

CHVN Radio’s Adrienne Daniels attended the opening, and comments: “the triumph of this performance was Mr. Cohen himself. He wasn’t there, but the RWB used audio from interviews he did regarding the songs being danced to and it gave such an incredible insight into the performance that it took it to that magical level. Where spirit and art connect and you FEEL the music. You feel it in your soul, its tangible with your hands and you can literally taste it.

“I was witness to one of the most moving spectacles of human expression that I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. My soul took flight for over 2 hours as I watched the poetic nature of the human form in motion; dancing, swaying, fighting, loving, understanding and confusing all at once.”

Details of “The Doorway“, “In Tandem” and “Pas D’Action” performances this weekend, (to recorded music), can be found on the RWB’s site @ http://www.rwb.org/

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Hallelujah ballet

“Spine-tingling.”

That’s how Holly Harris, dance reviewer for the Winnipeg Free Press, describes this performance of “Hallelujah“.

Corps de Ballet member Sophia Lee, fresh from a lead role as “First” in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s production of Mark Godden’s “Svengali“, here dances Leonard Cohen’s modern song classic. Allison Crowe sings and plays piano on-stage with Lee in the world premiere of “The Doorway“, choreographed by Jorden Morris. RWB Soloist Jo-Ann Gudilin (nee Sundermeier), “Mother” in “Svengali“, dons the blue dress to perform “Hallelujah” with Crowe on alternate dates.

(CBC News – screen-caps)

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Get with the program

Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet published a lovely “Playbill” size program for its “Pure Ballet” production. Here’s the page therein containing the bio of Allison Crowe, and, the person who made the music that made the dance, “The Doorway” – Leonard Cohen!

click on the image to read full-size

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