July 12, 2020

Winnipeg
18° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast

Close this

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Opinion

Setting dance to Cohen like poetry in motion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/5/2012 (2990 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Jo-Ann  Sundermeier and Yosuke Mino in  The Doorway: Scenes From Leonard Cohen.

TIM FENNELL PHOTO

Jo-Ann Sundermeier and Yosuke Mino in The Doorway: Scenes From Leonard Cohen.

Last year, Winnipeg's Jorden Morris was asked to choreograph a pas de deux to Leonard Cohen's soulful Dance Me to the End of Love for the nationally televised Genie Awards.

It was so well received that the Royal Winnipeg Ballet commissioned Morris to create a longer work to songs by the legendary Cohen.

The 44-year-old dancemaker, who teaches at the RWB School and created the company's hits Peter Pan and Moulin Rouge -- The Ballet, was already a fan of the 77-year-old Montreal-born poet and singer-songwriter. Years ago, he attended one of Cohen's spiritual concerts in Montreal.

Still, he embarked on an intensive research quest, downloading huge quantities of Cohen's influential music, reading biographies and getting his hands on 14 hours' worth of audio interviews with the deep-voiced singer, spanning some 40 years. He hopes to meet Cohen one day.

"He's such an amazing individual -- his ideas, his beliefs, the way he can so eloquently express anything, and put a shape and texture and colour onto it," Morris says. "If he's just talking about his hat, it sounds fabulous."

The full-scale Cohen project will ultimately be about an hour long and will likely debut in the 2013-14 season, Morris says. But a 20-minute version for seven dancers, The Doorway: Scenes from Leonard Cohen, has its world première Wednesday as part of RWB's season-ending Pure Ballet program.

The production, on until Mother's Day, also features Peter Quanz's Luminous and Mauricio Wainrot's Carmina Burana, both to recorded music.

The troupe actually has a history with Cohen. Back in the hippie era, it premiered Brian Macdonald's ballet The Shining People of Leonard Cohen. Still, don't hunt for the poet in the audience next week. He was invited, but is too busy to attend.

The Doorway consists of five relationship-themed vignettes set to four songs and a recording of Cohen reciting the poem Since You've Asked. Each vignette is preceded by a relevant audio clip of Cohen.

"What I'm trying to do is tie him to the music, and then make a picture," Morris says.

Two of the best-known songs will be performed live. The placement of the musicians is still being worked out, but Morris hopes they'll be in close proximity to the dancers.

British Columbia-born singer-songwriter Allison Crowe will play the piano and sing Hallelujah, choreographed as a female solo.

Winnipeg duo Keith and Renée will perform Bird on a Wire. The ballet also includes Sisters of Mercy as recorded by singer-songwriter Cris Williamson and The Letters sung by Cohen and Jennifer Warnes.

Morris doesn't have much experience choreographing to lyrics, but is very aware of the pitfall of matching movement too exactly to the words. It's a trap some audience members felt choreographer James Kudelka fell into with the Johnny Cash-scored ballet The Man in Black, performed here last fall by the National Ballet of Canada.

"I got a lot of comments (after the Cash ballet) saying, 'God, please don't be that literal with Leonard Cohen,'" Morris says. "It almost gets pedantic for the audience. ... You want to use Cohen's words as the canvas. The movement is the paint."

The title The Doorway, he says, reflects Cohen's almost priestly passage through the portal to the stage.

"He talks a lot about the doorway he goes through before he performs. It's something very sacred and special to him."

It might seem surprising that Dance Me to the End of Love doesn't appear in The Doorway, but it's because Morris envisions it as a number for many dancers in the hour-long version, to be titled The Chamber.

"I want it to be a huge group section for, like, six couples," he says. "I'm kind of saving that -- and things like Famous Blue Raincoat and Tower of Song."

alison.mayes@freepress.mb.ca

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us