Alberta Ballet’s Othello – Comments

Alberta Ballet dancer Kelley McKinlay as Iago with company artists in Kirk Peterson’s Othello

Photo: Paul McGrath PMG



October 18 to 20, 2012

Jubilee Auditorium


Let me be clear right from the beginning. This is not a review. While I’ve been going to the ballet for years and enjoy it immensely, I am not a dance critic. Nor would I ever insult the talented men and women who are by writing a performance critique. I am of the belief that if you don’t have the expertise or correct language to fully and cogently evaluate a subject, then it’s best to stay silent.

What these musings attempt to be rather, is nothing other than a compilation of my thoughts from the performance of Alberta Ballet’s Othello. Thoughts that can easily be dismissed as just my personal reaction or perhaps thoughts you can use to inform our own feelings about the production. Either way, here they are in no particular order

Hot for Iago

From the minute Kelley McKinlay took the stage at the start of the ballet in a raw, sinister and sensual solo to the last scene where he is strung up and punished for his crimes, I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Whether he was stunning me with his solo work, amazing me in his duets or simply skulking about at the back of the stage, my attention was riveted to him. Was it his uber talented physicality? Or did choreographer Kirk Peterson give him the best moves? Was it his penetrating acting and emoting? I’d say probably all three and for me it was electric. So much so that at one point I leaned over to my friend and said, “is it wrong that I have the total hots for  Iago?” One look from her told me I wasn’t alone.

That said, I’m not sure that this sexy a Iago works for the narrative of Othello. Why would someone so confident, alluring and masterful be so jealous? What’s the motivation? I have no answers to this and truthfully as I sat there watching McKinlay’s performance, I couldn’t have cared less.

Movie Music?

Jerry Goldsmith’s music for Othello struck me as moody, aggressive and at times overly soundtrack sounding. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, I did to a certain extent. But it was music that I think could have very easily been the backdrop to a Hollywood movie just as easily as it was used on stage.


How nice to see a ballet that is so male dominated! Not that I don’t adore ballerinas, but my real joy at the ballet is watching the athletic power and elegance of the male dancers do their thing. And boy do you get a lot of it in Othello.  Of particular delight was the regular occurrence of male duets in the program, not something that is often done but something I would like to see more of. They were exciting and sexy and energetic and I loved every minute of them.


Don’t go to Othello expecting to see ornate sets or grand scenes. Alexander V. Nichols’ set design is economic and fairly bare. At times I felt it was too bare, but for the most part it worked for me. But I will say that just as tired as I was of the huge, dated ornate sets of yesteryear, I am equally getting tired of the minimalist sets that designers are turning out again and again for both the ballet and the opera. I’d like to see something new.

Final thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed the performance. I found the story to be well told and the choreography and performances to be intriguing and entertaining to watch. Very little dragged for me and more than once I was moved. Usually in a swoony way by Iago (did I say that already? ) but also by many of the other emotional elements of the performance.

Lovely way to spend an evening.



  1. LuLu · October 19, 2012

    This was so great to read. We are heading out to it tomorrow night. I love your reviews and views on things. It’s like you are walking around in my head!


    • Jessica Goldman · October 19, 2012

      Thanks LuLu!! So lovely of you to say. I hope you enjoy the ballet.

  2. LuLu · October 21, 2012

    Well once again you were walking around in my head! I had forgotten that you mentioned the music in your write up, and after the ballet my husband and I were saying how “movie soundtrack” it was. We would have preferred a live orchestra. It adds another layer of energy to the experience. Yes, Iago was hot! And we LOVED the male duets. I’ve never seen that before and it’s exciting and thrilling to watch.

    Oh, and we thought the woman dancing the role of Desdemona had no spine. How can anyone be THAT flexible and graceful!


    • Jessica Goldman · October 21, 2012

      Glad you enjoyed! Did you read the professional critique in the Herald the other day? If so, what were your thoughts? As you know, my little blurb was not a critique after all.

      • LuLu · October 21, 2012

        OMGOSH I just read it and I couldn’t disagree with the writer more! I actually really disliked the set. I found it to be half way done, too much pattern on the stage, and sometimes it detracted from what was going on with the dancers.

        I’m not a dancer, and I don’t pretend to be, but I thought her comment “Mariko Kondo’s Desdemona is graceful and beautiful, but the arch of her pointe work was not as strong as some of her counterparts.” was just a *tad* harsh. She’s not writing just for dancers and to focus on something like that is exclusive.

        I think when writing you have to remember what the context is in which it will appear and who your audience is. (But that’s just my journalism background being picky. Now who’s being exclusive!)

        I have no idea what version of Othello she saw but it wasn’t the one Alberta Ballet danced last night.


      • Jessica Goldman · October 22, 2012

        Completely respect all your thoughts here. But a question for discussion…Is saying “Mariko Kondo’s Desdemona is graceful and beautiful, but the arch of her pointe work was not as strong as some of her counterparts” any more harsh than when I say that some part of an actor’s performance was lacking? I am not writing exclusively for professional actors in my critiques, as you know. So, are these the same thing or do you see dance and theatre criticism as being different in this regard? Over to you!

  3. jennamarynowski · November 2, 2012

    Great review – just got back from the Edmonton performance! I definitely agree with you about the music and how great it is to see so many male duets in this ballet. The power and grace of the Alberta Ballet’s male dancers was fantastic to witness.

    I disagree with you about the set though – I found the intricate details to be incredibly dramatic when lit properly. I also loved how, in the first act, when Othello begins to get jealous, how they closed in – to me, reflecting that he was becoming more and more closed minded to the truth the audience knows. Finally, I thought the bars that dropped down near the end of the first act were another great reflection of Othello’s mental state – sort of being isolated and cut off from Desdemonda. That said, perhaps those metaphors are just me.

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