Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal is compelling, surprising (Philadelphia Inquirer)

January 18, 2014

By Ellen Dunkel


It's a Cinderella story, a musical that is at once compelling and bizarre. Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal
presented Harry on a program of four dances when it opened Thursday night at the Annenberg

In Barak Marshall's account, it's not a glass slipper that is proffered for the foot that fits it, but a pot
in search of its lid. Women line up with covers of all sizes, trying to force them on Harry's crockery,
but the special someone holding the right lid must break free from a group forcibly holding her back.
This is just the beginning of a piece about love, death, and war. Harry's funeral is relived in several
existential discussions, battles are fought by popping powder-filled balloons and tossing glittery
confetti - and dancers speak. The dance is often a series of interconnected poses. One beautiful
section has the cast of women telling the story in a series of fluttering hand movements.

It's not for every taste, but Harry is an extravaganza - of humor, jazz, mime, and spoken-word
performance set to a score that ranges from Israeli folk songs to the music of Tommy Dorsey and
the Andrews Sisters - that won't soon be forgotten.

The first half of the program includes glorious duets and a group dance of the more traditional sort.
Two are balletic contemporary pieces that highlight the flexibility and silky-smooth movements of the
cerise-haired Celine Cassone, each set to piano music by Philip Glass.

In Zero in On - choreographed by Cayetano Soto - Cassone and Kevin Delaney in subtle beige
costumes are music in motion, with movements that are fluid but danced with intention, shadowed
motions, lifts, and a series of precise passes.

Closer is from Benjamin Millepied, who choreographed the dance sections of the movie Black
Swan (and later married its star, Natalie Portman). It is a series of passionate vignettes between
Cassone and Alexander Hille. One section is entirely lifts, with her feet never touching the floor.
Another, an intimate love scene, is performed entirely lying on the stage.

Breaking up the gentle movement is Soto's Fuel, set to a score of industrial sounds by Julia Wolfe.
Here, among clangs in the music and puffs of fog, the dancers are cogs in a machine that seems to
feed a large light structure at the back of the stage.

Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal visits the Annenberg every couple of years, always with strong
technical skills and something surprising. Catch it if you can.