The brains behind Caelestis which makes its Alberta Premiere in the mixed bill de.Vi.ate

Phi is the golden number which one writer calls “truly unique in its mathematical properties and pervasive in its appearance throughout nature.” It also appears in art, design and in its purest form, math and science.

It’s also the inspiration for a ballet created by Alberta Ballet Artistic Director Jean Grand-Maitre called Caelestis, which premieres in Alberta Feb. 13 in the Alberta Ballet mixed bill de.Vi.ate that also includes a Christopher Anderson world premiere of Sixth Breath, and Wen Wei Wang’s Futureland.

Caelestis (pronounced Chelestis and comes from a Latin word meaning “heavenly, coming from the sky, the blue colour of the sky”) was commissioned by the National Arts Centre for Canada’s 150th birthday. The commission paired three acclaimed Canadian choreographers with Canadian composers to create something beautiful and unique for the celebrations.

Jean was paired with Edmontonian Andrew Staniland who created a brilliant, Juno-nominated score for the triple bill – one Jean was extremely proud of and can’t wait to share with Alberta audiences for the first time.

“It was the first time in 15 years that I created a ballet for our company that did not premiere at home in Alberta theatres,” said Jean.

“I’m very excited to present it at home. It was a totally liberating and enchanting project where the costumes, lighting, music and dance were all born together. It was the first time in probably 20 years where I was able to commission a score for a ballet.”

Jean worked with Andrew to develop ideas based on the number Phi being interwoven into everything around us - this mysterious mathematical equation at the center of the creation of humanity and of all things.

“Maybe Phi is the number of the Creator, found in our DNA and in everything we see and breathe. From the bottom of the ocean to outer space. This idea that there was a mathematical purity and beauty was an interesting concept to both Andrew and myself, with the beginning of time and the evolution of humanity into this technological nightmare we are losing ourselves in now,” Jean said.

“This inspired Andrew to create a score based on Phi and to include its perfect dimensions in the development of melody and rhythms.”

Also commissioned for the piece were Calgary based  Oscar-nominated filmmakers Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis who created an animated film which is projected on stage. “It is projected vertically on an upstage wall and horizontally on the floor. It creates a sacred space within which the filmmakers project a film inspired by Phi, the beginning of time and the evolution and the devolution of our species,” Jean said.

Caelestis was a legacy gift made to Alberta Ballet from the NAC and its orchestra, a gift Jean is extremely grateful for. “Caelestis is a total creation that involved major commissions from filmmakers, composers, dancers, a choreographer and a lighting designer and offered us a ballet we could never have afforded to do alone, but thanks to this legacy gift, we are able to present it here,” he said.

“For the people who say they want to see more modern dance, they’re going to be happy. This was the most prestigious commission of my career.”

Tickets for de.Vi.ate are on sale now and are available here.

Kim Jackson