Alberta Ballet dancer Kelley McKinlay as Iago with company artists in Kirk Peterson’s Othello
Photo: Paul McGrath PMG
October 18 to 20, 2012
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.
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.
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.