Accessible and timely are not necessarily the first words that come to mind when someone mentions the word “ballet,” but GLACIER: A Climate Change Ballet is both these things. Glacier is the perfect introduction to modern ballet for the uninitiated and even the disinterested. With a running time of 45 minutes, a tightly scored soundtrack and live video projections, this briskly paced series of vignettes is a crowd-pleaser for all types of theatergoers.
GLACIER is a meditation on the world’s rapidly changing Arctic ecosystem. Wearing pointe shoes and simple white costumes, dancers emulate the rippling, dripping and cracking of polar ice. The ballet is broken up into 10 distinct parts, each inspired by a different type of Arctic ice or climate change phenomenon. The dancers expertly execute Diana Movius’s choreography and each vignette flows smoothly from one part to the next. The pacing of each part is well-timed and seems to end at just the right moment before it flows into the next.
There is some stiffness and slightly uncoordinated movement in the first few group scenes, but most likely first-night jitters are to blame. The strength of the performance still lies in its middles scenes and its overall cohesion as an artistic piece. Moveius Contemporary Ballet and company are adept at melding music, movement and multimedia into a beautiful narrative. GLACIER is very traditional in some ways, with its narrative arc, but very cutting edge in others.
Modern and classical sensibilities mix in both the music and the movements of the dancers. The searing, sweeping sounds of violins blend with cool electronic downbeats and saw tooth synthesizers (Max Richter, David Lang and Andrew Thomas). Dancers spin on pointe and leap elegantly across the stage, punctuating their undulating movements with more aggressive, modern gestures.
Live projection mapping is used throughout the performance, to great effect. Both Robin Bell’s videography and Jason Brinke’s lighting design perfectly accentuate the story of the dancers as they move through dissolving icicles and warming waters. There are some particularly remarkable moments when panning shots of cracking ice caps are interspersed with live video projections of the cast. Their bodies are multiplied onscreen and move in tandem with their choreography, imitating fragmenting ice floes and fated ice caps.
GLACIER: A Climate Change Balley
from MOVEIUS Contemporary Ballet
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Wearing a strikingly blue leotard, Therese Gahl’s solo dance halfway through the show is a standout and heralds a particularly wonderful series of performances from each of the dancers through to the end. Ice shelf falls to the sea in slow motion as the dancers embody the unstoppable force of nature and address feelings of vulnerability and loneliness in their movements. The sound of water flowing announces itself towards the end of the performance, waking us from the beauty of nature and reminding us that this is a dire situation.
The penultimate scene features the dancers handling giant bowls of water, the only props to enter the performance. This part verges on being heavy handed, but puts the onus back on the audience. The dancers gesture to us from their thawing habitat, startling us from our place of removed observation: we are responsible for this melting world.
GLACIER is abstract but not inaccessible. There is something here to please everyone. Its short length may leave some viewers wanting more, but you will not leave feeling like you didn’t get your money’s worth.
GLACIER: A Climate Change Ballet . Directors: Diana Movius, Alvaro Palau . Choreography: Diana Movius . Cast: Sara Bradna, Daniel Cooke, Carrie Denyer, Therese Gahl, Ashlea Glickstein (7/12 – 1/17), Kristin Jenkins, Anna Lipkin, Diana Movius (7/7 – 7/10) Rehearsal Assistant: Anna Lipkin . Company Manager: Carrie Denyer . Videography: Robin Bell . Music: Max Richter, David Lang and Andrew Thomas . Lighting Design: Jason Brinke . Costumes: Diana Movius . Produced by MOVEIUS Contemporary Ballet . Reviewed by K. McDermott.