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Dance Review: Alberta Ballet’s “Frankenstein”

Alberta Ballet's Frankenstein combines the elegance of ballet with the grotesque

What: Alberta Ballet Frankenstein 
When: November 1, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Jubilee Auditorium
Choreographer: Jean Grand-Maître

The Alberta Ballet company pairs their elegance with the bizarre 200-year-old tale of Frankenstein, bringing it to life in a modern setting. 

There is a level of mastery and overall skill required to perform live, and you can see it in all of the dancers. Jean Grand-Maître, the artistic director, was part of the amazing team that reimagined the gothic thriller for our time. The use of multimedia was brilliant; the opening scene was unforgettable with the creature dragging a sled in a blizzard and his loud footsteps echoing through the silent theatre. The audience must look through a screen that is projecting snowfall, to see the creature and a team of meteorologists. It gives a frigid sense of the arctic, without actual snowfall or fake snow that would be dangerous for the dancers. The screen is raised when the setting is changed to warmer climates.

One strange choice was having text projected just above the arch of the theatre stage, instead of having it projected straight to the back screen.  If you’re off to the side or visually impaired, you will have difficulty reading it. On the other hand, I was there for the dancers, so I had little interest in reading Frankenstein as I could have just picked up the book.  

There is no verbal dialogue in ballet. Instead, it is physical: the dancers must portray the story with only their movement and faces. Kelly Mckinlay was simply amazing as Victor, not only for his acting but also the clear level of skill and stamina he has to continue dancing. It is not all dramatic acting. During one majestic exit he rides a metal gurney off the stage, standing tall with his lab coat flowing in the breeze. 

Alberta Ballet Company

Zacharie Dun was perfect as the creature. I’m familiar with Boris Karloff’s take on the character in the 1931 Universal film, but this was so widely different in a good way. Rather than rigid movements, the creature moves in a shaky spasm that lends itself to the unease of the situation. It echoes how the creature was made with a defibrillator. The role requires an impressive amount of flexibility and Dun is outstanding. To showcase the creature’s flexibility and allow him to dance, the costuming could not be restrictive. The costuming is elegant in its simplicity— a spandex bodysuit with shading that depicts bones, muscles, and the unnatural skin tone. 

Only when I’m being nitpicky can I find anything wrong. For instance, the creature making his way from Mar A Lago to Jasper Park Lodge in one night is implausible. The Alberta Ballet is a wonderful way to spend two hours, and this rendition of Frankenstein is unique and uses technology to bring out the best parts of the story. It was worth seeing and whatever they do next will no doubt be tackled with the same passion.

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