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October 11, 2012

Ballet company opens season with Japanese classic

MONTREAL — Ancient Asian but very animated influences, classic holiday works and an Elton John soundtrack highlight a lively season presented by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. 

JAPANESE CLASSIC

Opening tonight is “Kaguyahime: The Moon Princess.” “Kaguyahime” is a contemporary ballet based on Princess Kaguya, a 10th-century Japanese folktale character who has become the more modern inspiration for books, plays and even cartoons and video games.

“It is perhaps the oldest, most famous Japanese tale,” Les Grands Ballets Canadiens executive director Alain Dancyger said, adding that the work is the French equivalent of “Le Petit Prince” (“The Little Prince”) in the sense that “all the Japanese people know this story.”

Of the Les Grands Ballets Canadiens work, Dancyger said the audience can expect something very special.

“I would say that this is the most ambitious work we’ve ever done,” he said. “It’s the kind of production that can only be done live.”

The work is the first full-length ballet choreographed by Jiri Kylian.

“He’s usually an abstract choreographer. And this is a story ballet,” Dancyger said. “I think he’s one of the most thrilling choreographers today that we can find.”

Musically, the work employs a full contingent of Japanese kodo drum performers as well as a gagaku group, who play sixth-century instruments dressed in traditional Japanese Imperial costume.

“It’s visually stunning,” Dancyger said. “It’s a fusion piece. There’s an interaction between the kodo players and the dancers on stage.” 

As for the dancing, he said, “it’s very physical.”

“It’s almost intense in the physicality,” Dancyger said. “And intense in the stillness the dancers need to have that you so often find in the Japanese tradition. The combination of all of this together makes this quite a unique project.”

“Kaguyahime” is performed through Saturday, Oct. 27.

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