After creating pop ballets featuring the music of Joni Mitchell, Elton John and Sarah McLachlan, Alberta Ballet artistic director Jean Grand-Maître is teaming up with a native of the province for his latest contemporary collaboration. Balletlujah!, set to the music of k.d. lang, will have its world premiere in May, 2013.
"I thought it would be fantastic to really have someone who hits home in Alberta, and k.d. lang is someone who's been on my list for a long time," Grand-Maître said on Thursday after announcing his 10th season with Alberta Ballet. "I had her very high on my list as a collaborator and someone that would inspire me very much."
According to Grand-Maître, the idea for the title came from Alberta-born lang, whom he met with briefly while working on the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Olympics. "She stole the show," he recalled. "I was just so blown away by this extraordinary voice."
Two months ago, he travelled to Los Angeles to meet with her about the ballet. She had been up all night for the Buddhist New Year, he recalls, but on no sleep talked for two hours about the collaboration.
"It was amazing," he said. "That's the difference between just getting the rights to choreograph ballets to these people's music and meeting them. It's like they open their personal diaries to me."
The full-length ballet is still in its early stages, he said, but Grand-Maître envisions it as a series of sketches about a young girl growing up on the Prairies.
"[Lang]told me that when she was younger, her dad bought her a motorcycle and she would drive out to the Prairies until there was nobody [around] And she says for her, that was one of the greatest sensations of freedom she ever had," said Grand-Maître, himself speaking from the Prairies, somewhere between Calgary and Red Deer. "As I listen to her music ... that voice, that languid voice, seems to echo loud into nowhere. It's like the feeling of the Prairies."
Lang is coming on board as a collaborator, and will provide "intimate assistance" in the early stages of the creative process on the production's soundtrack, costume and set designs.
While he has written a first draft, Grand-Maître said he's still working on song selection. He does reveal lang's cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah will definitely be included, as will her pop hit Constant Craving, along with a number of tracks from last year's release Sing It Loud.
Grand-Maître's previous pop-star collaborations include The Fiddle and the Drum (Mitchell), Love Lies Bleeding (John) and Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (McLachlan).
As for his other contemporary works, Love Lies Bleeding will travel to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa next season and to Montreal as part of Les Grands Ballets's season. Grand-Maître said there has been interest from Germany and Australia in mounting the production, likely in the 2013-14 season. He's also planning tours for Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and is in talks with Cohen's son, Adam, about creating a ballet set to his father's music.
Balletlujah! will have its world premiere on May 3, 2013, in Edmonton, followed by dates in Calgary.