Mats Eks is a choreographer that the Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal have worked with before, and for good reason: he’s amazing at drama. Whether it’s Gisele or Swan Lake, the Swedish legend has a way turning the classic into the unexpected and getting at the heart of a story’s emotion. The secret ingredient? Realism…
To the sounds of Tchaikovsky, this Sleeping Beauty tells the story of a rebellious teen who falls under the spell of a seductive drug dealer. The legendary prick of her skin isn’t caused by thorns this time, by rather by a surgical needle full of heroin. “In Sleeping Beauty, for me, this mysterious moment is the actual prick of the thorn, with the sleep that follows. What does this mean, and what is really going on?” asks the choreographer.
The power of the mise-en-scène lies in its transposition into a real-life situation. In many ways, a heroin high is like a deep sleep. It’s the perfect analogy to talk – in the wordless language that is dance – about the power of narcotics and the loss of innocence of a young schoolgirl. Gradimir Pankov, the Grands Ballets Canadiens‘ artistic director and a friend of Eks, says the choreography was inspired by a real girl Eks saw in the street, passed out with a needle sticking out of her arm.
Don’t be fooled, though, this choreography still has its fair share of magic and the poetry in motion we are used to seeing from the company. From the fantastical costumes of the fairies to the dark humour that reigns, it’s a playful piece. But some of the tableaux will stop you in their tracks with their emotional power. The pas de deux between the young girl and her dealer, in particular, will leave your tearful.
“A fairy tale is like a pretty little house, but there’s a sign on the door saying ‘land mines!’” says Eks. “All fairy tales have things in common: princesses, witches, kings and queens, Good and Evil. But each one also has something unique about it, because inexplicable things happen.”
Sleeping Beauty by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, October 10 to 26, 2013