What do you do when a ballet gets postponed and you have a hole in your season? That was the dilemma facing Alberta Ballet artistic director Jean Grand-Maître. The originally scheduled work was based on Joni Mitchell’s love songs, so Grand-Maître had to create a piece using the same budget and no orchestra. Enter CLASS ACTS – A Tribute to Hollywood Musicals.
“I grew up watching those films,” says Grand-Maître. “Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly were the reasons I wanted to dance in the first place.” The AB dancers have had to learn a whole new style of dance – a mix of ballroom, swing, tap and ballet. “It’s a lost art,” says Grand-Maître.
The set for CLASS ACTS is an old sound stage where an elderly film director remembers the great stars from the past. The second act is Grand-Maître’s invention of what the Hollywood style would look like today. The musical score features legends such as Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, Nat King Cole and, of course, Frank Sinatra. Three video projectors are creating the elaborate backdrops for each song.
“It’s our version of That’s Entertainment,” says Grand-Maître.
CLASS ACTS runs May 3 in Calgary, and May 9 and 10 in Edmonton.