Choreographer Jiří Kilián is a world-famous master for a reason: the Prague-born former artistic director of the Nederlands Dans Theater is incredibly prolific, and produced over a hundred choreographies throughout his career. He displays a singularly humanistic sensitivity in his work, making poetry out of human emotions. The Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal has already put quite a few of his works to the stage, to great public acclaim. The latest is Kaguyahime: The Moon Princess.
The story, based on a late 9th century Japanese tale, is simple: A moon princess, the most beautiful creature you’ve ever seen, descends to earth to spread peace and love. She is too beautiful for this place, though, and drives men wild with desire: soon they fight over her. War ensues, and eventually, an emperor gets involved; he tries to capture her to keep her for himself. She is imprisoned, until the moonlight blinds the emperor’s troops – in that moment, she is freed and re-ascends to the moon.
Kilián tells this story with lots of quiet, extended moments of subtle movement backed by eerie flute music, giving the entire things an appropriately lunar feel. The music is key in this show: the flutes are played by three Japanese musicians whose heads stick up from the orchestral pit in the front of the stage. In the second half, huge kodo drums figure as part of the stage design, and drummers run up from the pit onto stage to play them and other percussive instruments, mixing with the dancers. Those are some of the most exciting moments.
The stage design is spare and simple, keeping the focus on the dancers. While the battle scenes provide the most expressive and explosive physical moments, this is really a one-woman show: the quiet, controlled beauty of the princess’s movements is truly and appropriately beguiling. The central role was danced by Eva Kolarova for the premiere performance (the role alternates between her and Sarah Kingston), and, well, she’s a star!
Kaguyahime: The Moon Princess, October 11-27, 2012