“If you went to a salon in the olden days, for example, or a house concert, and you just listened to music and you’re there and you’re experiencing the music and you’re experiencing the people around you…it’s like that.”
That’s how Evelyn Hart, the former principal dancer of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, described the new James Kudelka show she is in: Love, Sex & Brahms, a presentation by Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie (CLC). I chatted with Evelyn over the phone on Wednesday about the show.
Love, Sex & Brahms
A collection of vignettes about love and relationships, Love, Sex & Brahms is an expanded version of Kudelka’s Dora Award-winning #lovesexbrahms, with each vignette set to an intermezzo by the German composer Johannes Brahms (1833-1897).
The vignettes are not entirely separate from each other nor entirely connected, and sometimes the characters come together and sometimes they don’t. “But the relationship in the music is what we’re painting,” Hart said.
Although the same characters may return to the stage, they’ll relate to the other characters in a different way. Hart said, “It really is that each time the music starts, it’s like watching a scene and the relationships in that scene.”
The show takes place at the Betty Oliphant Theatre of Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which seats just over 250, making this an intimate performance, a concept Hart said Kudelka is keenly interested in. It also seems like a fitting venue based on her descriptions of the set: a piano and chandelier. The only other item on the stage is a carpet made of light that changes with each piece.
“The lighting designer was quite brilliant,” she said. “So that defines the dancing space and the room that we’re in.”
Evelyn Hart on Stage
Hart enjoyed a 30-year-long career at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the vast majority of it as their headlining prima ballerina. Although she retired from dance over a decade ago, she still searches out opportunities to perform on stage, even if it doesn’t involve long series of fouetté turns and big passés.
Hart still does barre everyday. However, she does admit that retiring from dance was a grieving process for her. And yet, in this production, she says, ”I certainly didn’t feel that I wasn’t dancing. In my limited capacity, what it felt was it’s all the emotion through movement.”
Which is exactly what Kudelka is exploring, according to Hart: “He keeps saying, ‘It’s more like actors dancing.’ […] He wanted people to be very real. We’re not trying to be dancers per se.”
Hart always welcomes opportunities to perform again: “It’s an incredibly fulfilling thing to be able to go out on stage.”
Kudelka, Puppets, & Dance
It’s not just humans the audience will see on stage. Kudelka has previously explored puppetry, an experiment he is continuing with Love, Sex & Brahms: In 2014, he choreographed and performed a show called Malcolm, which involved an eponymous puppet and was a far cry from the puppetry of children’s shows many may be used to.
The Globe & Mail wrote of Malcolm, ““The piece is also a tender portrait of the human condition, in turn loving, jealous, amused and bewildered.”
The Toronto Star gave Malcolm 4/4 stars: “It might seem odd for Kudelka, acclaimed for such spectacular National Ballet productions as The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Cinderella, to resort to puppetry, but then Kudelka has always been a little odd — in the most theatrically stimulating ways. And he’s no stranger to puppetry, having portrayed a mad inventor who believes he can infuse life into a cherished mechanical doll in the ballet Coppélia.”
The Star explained that puppetry has been making a resurgence, citing Crystal Pite’s fascination with the art form and a 2009 Canadian Opera Company production “that created theatre magic by deploying puppets.”
Who Is Sarkis?
The puppet in Love, Sex & Brahms is Sarkis, a clothed, bald, child-like creation.
“The puppet is the way that they speak to each other; the thing that keeps them apart or that pulls them together. It’s quite interesting,” she said. “Everybody in each piece deals with the puppet in a different way.” She says he is simply another person in the room; sometimes the whole focus is on him, and sometimes he just sits there, watching.
The show is about 40 minutes long and runs from March 16 – 19. Tickets are only $25 ($20 for artists, students, and seniors). I’m certainly going to try and make it. For full information, visit Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie).
“It’s very quiet, but there’s drama in it, there’s beauty in it, there’s love,” Hart said. Sounds like a wonderful evening to me.