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”
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,"
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"
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,”
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" - 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, PE | 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