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Mitchell ballet sparks a love-in   Print

by Alexandra Burroughs
Calgary Herald
February 9, 2007

Alberta Ballet's production of Dancing Joni runs until Feb. 10.

Calgary ballet audiences embraced the world premiere of Joni Mitchell's ballet Thursday night by reconnecting with their 1960s roots.

There were bell bottoms and sandals, dreadlocks and tattooed peace symbols -- even a woman wearing a crown of daisies.

Not your typical ballet attire, but then again, there's nothing typical about this ballet.

After weeks of anticipation, a near sold-out crowd packed the Jubilee Auditorium for Dancing Joni & Other Works, featuring The Fiddle and The Drum, a 45-minute collaboration between the famed singer-songwriter and Alberta Ballet artistic director Jean Grand-Maitre.

The work, which focuses on war as well as crimes against the environment, is set to 10 Mitchell songs and also incorporates her artwork.

"I'm here to see Joni," said Marjorie Stakenas, 60, a rare patron of the ballet who was hoping to catch a glimpse of Mitchell.

Stakenas' long grey braids and '60s-style bandanna gave her away as a longtime Mitchell fan.

Most people had taken their seats by the time Mitchell made her entrance through a stage door.

Once she was spotted, applause and chatter filled the room.

The famously reclusive star handled the attention with a smile and a nod.

Her famous long blond locks swept up loosely in a clip, Mitchell dressed for the opening in flowing forest green silk. As she made her way to her seat -- walking with a subtle groove in her step -- an awestruck woman behind me remarked: "Wow. She's. So. Cool."

"There's been a lot of pressure for this creation -- more than usual," says Grand-Maitre, who may have been referring to arts critics from around the world in the attendance Thursday night.

"Never, for any premiere, even in Europe, has there been so much attention. There's so much expectation. We've done our best -- that's what we do."

Alberta Ballet is hoping to recruit new audience members with Mitchell and this production.

But her fan base won't be limited to Alberta audiences.

A film about the ballet, directed by Mitchell herself, will likely give the ballet company further international exposure.

 

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