La Mère des Rennes Ballet
The ballet that just might give Nutcracker a run for his Yuletide boots. Based on a very ancient legend. indeed (once extant from Siberia to France) it’s the story of how the Reindeer mother goes in search of the sun, to bring it back at the Winter Solstice and return warmth and light to the Earth.
La Mère des Rennes Ballet
From story by Ysabeault d’Valar-Alba
Based on material from the GatherVictoria Website
For synopsis and choreographic notes, email firstname.lastname@example.org and put query choreography in the subject line.
Gallery of Images/Ideas for the design of the Ballet
Design of the Ballet
The picture of the Reindeer above (she must be a Reindeer Mother, for, according to lore and legend, only the females retain their antlers in winter!) is from a Christmas Card, showing how deeply this idea is embedded in our feelings about the Yuletide.
The idea for La Mère des Rennes is firmly in the classical tradition with regard, not only to choreography, but also for the Artistic Design of the ballet. Yet, it must combine both the classical feel and be enriched by folkdance motifs, as indeed, many of the classical ballets were (think Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadere). This “folk” feel extends into the Artistic Design, where each locale is represented by a folk tradition, in set, costume and lighting.
The North, where the Reindeer live is characterized by the white of Winter, the blue of Iciness but also the Reds of the traditional costumes of the circumpolar peoples. The sets must show both the deep Fir Forests and the Arctic Tundra where the Reindeer roam.
The East, the direction of the morning sun, is characterized by Yellows, Ivories, Peaches and Oranges, of the rising light and the morning air. Here the light silks of China and delicate patterns prevail.
The West had the characteristics of the setting sun, and the waning light, still bright in the sky aloft but fading, into the Blues of the Western Oceans.
The South is the direction of Fire, of the Equatorial Sun, and the bronzes of burnished grasses. But these should also be off set by the Green of things growing, of lushness.
About Ysabeault ValarAlba as dancer, choreographer and producer
So, why in heaven’s name would I think I could do this?
Well, before I went to university, I was a dancer (aside: have now met many many dancers who made the leap from stage to ivory tower, so it has sometimes been a reunion and sometimes been therapy encounters!). The kind of dance I started in was ballet. Before we came to Canada, I attended various ballet schools in the States. After we landed here, I auditioned for, and was accepted into, the National Ballet School of Canada, where I studied under some truly inspiring teachers, but alas, I had a stage mother who felt my progress wasn’t fast enough and who pulled me from there to study with one of the rival schools of the time. Bad decision, almost immediately I pulled a hamstring doing a badly supported “developé” – and that seemed to be that.
Life intervened, marriage; and launching a modest career as a writer (under a nom de guerre: Marguerite Sackville-Hunt – under which the Nutcracker article was published -stand by, I will put it up here soon). But, once a dancer, always a dancer. So, at 23 I went back to dance at the Lois Smith School of Dance. And for those who don’t know who that is (terrible lacuna), she was Canada’s very first Prima Ballerina. At her school, I started from the very bottom, with the little kids, learning how to do a proper pliè, a proper tendu, and slowly worked my way back up to an advanced level. I was there when Baryshnikov hid out when he defected!!!! At the same time, I started in on Spanish Ballet/Flamenco which I had never taken before – and fell in love with it – not so much in its public performances, actually but the classes and rehearsals were some of the most intense dance I had ever experienced.
Well, life intervened again, and again, I was away from dance for a decade and a half. But once a dancer, always a dancer. So, one evening, when I was in my later thirties, I saw the movie “Dirty Dancing” and that was that. By that time I was in university, doing my Masters in Social Cultural Anthropology, and most of my academic friends were “Art Film” affecionados” and were quite frankly aghast at my swooning over a Hollywood movie, even an underdog movie, like Dirty Dancing. I like to think that I have had the last laugh because, as many of you will know, it really has become something of a classic. So, from that I started to dance again, this time, on my own, remembering what my previous instructors had taught me, but having the time and privacy to work on my body in my own way. I had several bad postural problems at that point, but the pride of my life was when a former teacher exclaimed, “What did you do, you finally have ‘dancer legs’ !” which, in some ways, is the highest praise I can imagine.
I also started to choreograph, and when I was forty-two, danced in the University of Toronto’s Gala Evening of Dance, en pointe, to a beautiful Christmas Carol, the Spanish “La Virgin Lava Panales” (which is actually “The Virgin washes Diapers” – but it sounds so much better in Spanish, doesn’t it? And the music was/is gorgeous). My performance was recorded on a now ancient technology, VHS – and I am currently trying to get it converted to a digital format so I can put it up for you.
That was the last time I danced on point, but by no means my last dance. In the intervening years, I became the Liturgical Dance Mistress for Bathurst United Church, working out very small (it is Protestant, after all) gestural and small movement work to short hymns. I should add, that in those years too, I became a Pagan Religious, and that is one reason why both Nutcracker (in which I see Pagan elements) and La Mère appeal to me so much, especially now, the latter.
I have kept up with dance, and all the changes that have happened within the various worlds of dance, but my heart still resonates to classical ballet, although I am also drawn to various folkloric forms. I see La Mère as having the perfect narrative space for both classical and for several kinds of folkloric elements.
This is a huge project, but, by creating it in a semi-virtual space, I am hoping that its potential will lure ballet companies to take a look, and for one (or more?) to decide that it is a project that they would be pleased to help realize.
Best to all, Ysabeault dVA
Danced Prayer/Devotional Dance
There are several forms of devotional dances that are available now: the Sufi Dances for Peace, Sacred Circle Dance to name the two best known. As “Liturgical Dance Mistress” for Bathurst United Church (under the Ministry of Rev. Frances Combs), I took short hymn and designed small gestures to signify sacred ideas: The circle of Life, the Mercy Cup, the rising seas, the blowing wind, the Centre and the Expanse. Out of that experience I designed and taught a series of workshops for those wanting to incorporate sacred gesture into their church worship experience – or to do at home as part of private daily devotions. Alas, COVID has put a temporary halt on these lovely encounters, but, all things being blessed, we shall resume soon. I will post schedules, meeting places, and contact information.