Modern ballet master Preljocaj to electrify Power Center

By Gillian Jakab, For the Daily
Published November 1, 2013

There is a space between classical ballet and modern dance, between elegant dancers with pink tutus, white tights and pointe shoes in Marius Petipa’s “Swan Lake” and black body-suited, barefooted dancers in a Martha Graham piece. This space is occupied by the genre of modern ballet, combining the rules of classical balletic training with a conviction to bend and twist them into a movement vocabulary outside of the conventional format. One of modern ballet’s masters, Angelin Preljocaj, the artistic director of Ballet Preljocaj, will bring his company to the Power Center this weekend as part of UMS’s fall season.

Ballet Preljocaj

Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
Power Center
From $18

Preljocaj was trained in classical ballet in France, and in 1980, moved to New York to study with post-modern dancers like Merce Cunningham. Today, in addition to having his own renowned company based in Aix-en-Provence, Preljocaj often receives commissions to choreograph works for ballet companies around the world, including, recently, New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet and Staatsoper Berlin.

The company will perform “And Then, One Thousand Years of Peace,” drawn from the biblical text of St. John’s “The Book of Revelation,” and explore apocalyptic themes against a background of original techno music to portray a universal response to upheaval.

“And Then, One Thousand Years of Peace” was originally choreographed for the Bolshoi Ballet in 2010. The dancers involved, and the cultures they come from, undoubtedly shaped Preljocaj’s choreographic process.

“It was half my dancers and half those of the Bolshoi Ballet,” Preljocaj said, “And I think of ‘And Then, One Thousand Year of Peace’ (as meant) to reflect revolution, which of course has been a huge theme in histories of both France and Russia.”

In 2012, Ballet Preljocaj left a lasting impression on UMS’s audience with its performance of “Snow White.” The company’s timely encore will show us another side of Preljocaj’s work.

“ ‘Snow White’ was a more literal telling of a story,” Preljocaj said. “ ‘And Then, One Thousand Years of Peace’ is less of a direct commentary; it draws on a relationship between the text of St. Jean, ‘Revelations’ and the relevance of what is happening in our world today.”

Global dialogue on the apocalypse is as diverse and widespread as ever. With the Mayan calendar’s prediction of the end of the world in 2012, the looming threats of global warming and nuclear proliferation, the theme is a common one for people throughout the world. Preljocaj does not assert a pointed thesis, but works to channel this collective dialogue to provoke a response.

“What’s particularly powerful about dance as an art form is that everyone has bodies, and therefore everyone can feel and connect to these physical human responses.”

Ballet Preljocaj, a true illustration of modern ballet, aims to create a fresh aesthetic with virtuosic dancers and the edgy music one might hear in a nightclub. In fact, Laurent Garnier, who created the music for “And Then, One Thousand Years of Peace,” first worked as a DJ in the legendary nightclub Fac 51 Hacienda in Manchester, and is among Europe’s foremost techno and house music producers.

“I think Laurent Garnier’s electronic techno music will talk to young people,” Preljocaj said. “It is not typical ballet music like Tchaikovsky.”

Returning to Ann Arbor time and time again, Ballet Preljocaj performs works as textured and forward thinking as the University community audience. “And Then, One Thousand Years of Peace” will present the challenge of feeling what is conceptual — grand notions of global dilemma and social justice — on a physical and intuitively human level.