It’s not often that you get to see the world premier of a ballet- often it will be a premier for that company, but typically not for the ballet as a whole. I was able to see the world premiere of Vespers, on Friday, May 12, 2017, and it was incredible. Although I typically skew towards preferring the classical and story ballets, I could not have loved this more. Vespers is nuanced and detailed and full of emotion, and the choreography felt organic and layered.
As a medieval historian, I’m automatically drawn to vespers as I’m more than familiar with the term- vespers, or evening prayer, is often celebrated with chanting, songs and music. Choreographed by James Kudelka, Vespers shows the relationship between man and nature Here is the full synopsis:
“The first Book to be given Man – at the Creation – was the Book of Nature. In it all created things are like letters of the alphabet; they can be combined into words and sentences, teaching Man truths about God and himself. But with the Fall, Man was blinded to the sense of the Book of Nature. He could no longer read it aright. Nevertheless, that book remains common to all.” (From the forward to the translation of Michel de Montaigne’s ‘An Apology for Raymond Sebond’.)
Part one Vespers puts forward the premise of a mythological world where People and Nature live in a community of mutual respect and tolerance. There is ritual, love, sex and death, but at its core there is harmony and joy in existence and association.
Part two of Vespers is more narrative and takes place in a contemporary urban world “after the Fall” where Nature and People exist in their own silos. The community of part one is now two worlds. But for one Everywoman, wise beyond her knowledge, the appearance of Nature to her that seems like madness at first, becomes a vital part of her life force and becomes a thrilling journey of personal discovery and connection to the world.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Canadian ballet landscape, Evelyn Hart is one of our primas- from 1976 until 2005, Evelyn was a rock for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. An expressive and breathtaking dancer, it was difficult to see her go. Well, the Everywoman in Vespers was portrayed by none other than Evelyn Hart herself. It was unbelievable to see her dancing with the RWB again, and could not have been a better way to finish up the company’s season.
I was very curious to see how the animals would feature in the show, and if it would somehow feel incomplete to only have an animal head. However, after seeing it, I think that it was a brilliant choice. I think that the heads were just enough to signify the animal while still maintaining the relationship between man and nature- a head to toe costume would have been distracting and obscuring.
After the show, there was a meet and greet with some of the dancers, and as my Snapshot Saturday previewed, I was able to meet Beth Lamont! Everyone has their favourite dancers that they always watch out for, and I’ve loved seeing Beth’s growth in the company. We all look for different things in dancers; I love subtlety. Beth’s dancing always feels honest and complicated and genuine without over-acting and distraction. (Also, I can only dream of her lines!!) I didn’t actually know it was Beth until after, but her Fox was incredible in Vespers. Meeting her was a true highlight!!
If you could see any ballet, which would it be and why?