National Ballet of Canada - 'The Contract'
X-Rated Fairy Tale!
By Michael Goldbarth
February 6, 2004 -- Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto
"The Contract" cannot lay claim to being a full-length ballet. Act One began at 7:35 and was over at 8:30. After a 20-minute intermission, the ballet resumed -- mercifully ending at 9:25. I want a lot more ballet for my buck! With a top ticket price of 110 Canadian guilders, you better give me more than a one-act ballet stretched into 2 acts. Cut back the gratuitous epileptic scenes along with the seduction scene and you have a nice one-act ballet for a mixed program. If the National tours Canada with this adults’ only ballet, they could do more harm to themselves than good.
"The Contract" should be about creativity and how education educates the creativity out of us. Think backwards to your public and high school daze: the uniformity; the bland white gymnasium walls; the brain draining florescent lighting; two times two must equal four, etc. etc. etc. We all had to think the same way, wear the same clothes, move exactly the same way. Creativity is bad for you. There is only one right answer to each question. Don’t think for yourself. Day after day after day-that’s what they massaged into our 56 ounces of mush!
In this ballet within a ballet, we along with the dancers of the National Ballet of Canada watch the dancers of the National Ballet School perform "The Pied Piper of Hamelin." Like the Piper, Eva (a.k.a. the Goddess of Creativity) attempts to draw out the child (creativity) in all of us adults (puritanical conformists). Though pushing the big Four O and despite a fall, Martine Lamy treats us to a titillating performance as evangelist/faith healer/seductress Aimee Semple McPherson. Those of us well-healed enough to sit close to the stage sat eyeballs glued to Lamy -- leaving very little to the imagination in a beige diaphanous dress. My opera glasses fogged up!
In real life, Aimee Semple McPherson (1890 - 1944) captured the imagination of millions turning many on to Jesus Christ through methods considered very unique in her time. The blond bombshell dished out her sermons with a serving of music and theatre. It was not unusual to see a short story from the bible performed on her stage (the Angelus Temple-which coincidentally cost the same to create as Kudelka’s Contract: $1.2 million)! The only thing that rivaled McPherson’s appetite for religion was her appetite for men. She married thrice and her many lovers included Uncle Milty (Milton Berle)!
Back to our ballet … After saving the budding adults from the death of creativity, which comes in the form of the above mentioned far too long epileptic fits, The Goddess of Creativity looks for the prudish Dancers of Hamelin to fulfill their end of the contract. The denouement of the ballet comes when she mounts Will (Guillaume Côté) as children watch-eyes wide. (Despite the fairy tale theme, nobody in public school should view this X-rated ballet.) The Hamlet’s elders put a coitus interruptus to Kudelka’s Muse making out with young Will, and in the end, it’s the elders who are revealed to be the true rats. Just like the rats of Hamelin, they too are expelled from their Hamlet. By the way, Stratford Actor Tom McCamus (recorded on LP not live) did a wonderful job narrating Robert Browning’s verse.
There is much to admire about "The Contract". The lighting was almost Da Vinci like. Unfortunately, this critic enjoyed watching the shadows dance more so than the dancers. One to keep an eye on is the lovely Tanya Howard. She’s far too beautiful and far too talented to remain buried in the corps de ballet. Kudelka better create some soloist roles for this budding talent before another company more appreciative of Ms. Howard’s beauty, sensuality and dazzling dance technique steals her.
This is a very painful ballet to watch. As mentioned, Kudelka devotes an inordinate amount of time showing us the death of creativity delivered to this reviewer’s eyes in the form of a virus attacking the body of humanity. Once again, Kudelka was masterful in utilizing the talents of the entire company: from the National Ballet School to the corps de ballet to the older character artists. To tell Kudelka’s story we needed 4 very distinct musical themes: classical, hymns on full pipe organ, swing, and hot provocative jazz. Michael Torke’s score, though very pleasing to the ear, was far too uniform.
Now if only Kudelka can tinker and edit this work down to one act he may have something worth seeing twice. Mr. K. tried to write too much into his "Contract." It’s ridiculous to squeeze The Pied Piper of Hamelin plus the real life story of Aimee Semple McPherson into one ballet. Given McPherson’s Canadian roots (Salford, Ontario), does she not merit a ballet of her own? I know what you’re thinking! Who would we get to play Uncle Milty?
Unless you’re a diehard ballet/Kudelka fan, you’ll only sign on to the dotted line … for this "Contract" one time.
Edited by Jeff.