Topic: National Ballet of Canada - The Contract
Marie posted 04-18-2002 08:37
<img src="http://www.criticaldance.com/images/nboc-contract2.jpg" alt="" />
Canadian Press - Toronto Star, Apr. 17, 2002:
Kudelka ballet to debut in Toronto
National Ballet will take The Contract to Ottawa after Hummingbird run
Robert Sirman, administrative director of the National Ballet School, created a libretto that combines Robert Browning's poem The Pied Piper of Hamelin with the story of legendary Canadian preacher-faith healer Aimee Semple McPherson.
________________________________ Marie posted 04-26-2002 04:31
JOHN COULBOURN - TORONTO SUN, April 26, 2002:
Dancer Cote on his toes
The National Ballet of Canada's Guillaume Cote is sleeping soundly despite the fact that opening night of The Contract is just over a week away.
________________________________ Marie posted 04-27-2002 11:08
ROBERT EVERETT-GREEN - Globe & Mail, April 27, 2002:
Dancing with the piper
James Kudelka is leading his National Ballet stars toward uncharted territory: the premiere next week of his ambitious new work reimagining the Hamelin legend. ROBERT EVERETT-GREEN watched the production take shape
The big room was full of dancers, and completely silent. Six women stood waiting, and about 30 more from the National Ballet of Canada sat or slouched by the walls, while James Kudelka frowned at a patch of empty floor. He was trying to locate or invent the link between one batch of steps and another. Watching him was like waiting to hear the beat of invisible wings.
________________________________ Marie posted 05-02-2002 09:43
REBECCA TODD - The Eye, 05.02.02:
Morality dance more...
Kudelka takes a fresh look at sex
In the story of The Contract, created with librettist Robert Sirman, a young man named Will returns to a small community after an absence. It soon becomes apparent he's infected with a "movement disorder" which begins to spread among the young people. Eva, a stranger, appears, claiming that she can heal the young people. The town makes a contract with Eva, who removes their affliction with a laying-on of hands. Later, she seduces Will, who is considerably her junior. To make matters worse, a child witnesses the seduction. The outraged town elders break the contract and, in retaliation, Eva uses her charismatic pull to lure the children away.
________________________________ Marie posted 05-03-2002 09:26
JOHN COULBOURN - Toronto Sun, May 3, 2002:
National Ballet premieres first original program tomorrow
"I always put The Pied Piper as the primary source," he says of the genesis of the work. "But when one was looking at characterization, that's when Aimee Semple McPherson was laid on."
In McPherson, the international faith-healer whose sexual escapades led to her fall from grace, Kudelka suddenly had the answer to the question that had plagued him since childhood -- an answer that goes far beyond the realm of Hamelin to permeate much of modern life. In politics, in sports, in so many areas, he says, "The reason they didn't pay the piper is because they had sex -- or they are sexual."
________________________________ Malcolm Tay posted 05-05-2002 21:53
The National Ballet of Canada The Contract
Hummingbird Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, ON.
May 4, 2002
James Kudelka's latest full-length ballet for The National Ballet of Canada, The Contract, doesn't milk, drag out the narrative for all its worth. In two acts, it tells a compelling, if somewhat eccentric, story solely in terms of movement, with a libretto by Robert Sirman; and yet, its larger implications hint at some deep-seated fear, even revulsion, of humankind's primal passions. That's possibly why the ballet isn't recommended for children under the age of 14.
Like Bronislava Nijinska's Les Noces of 1923, The Contract captures a community at an important moment in its existence. And the people who constitute this particular community aren't the most exciting people around. In plain dresses and suits of white and deep green, they sway from side to side in circles and lines, the torso rarely deviating from its frontal, upright position, their half-extended arms mostly plastered to their sides. They hardly touch. It's all about the collective conscience - not even the Elder, played by Rex Harrington, stands out too much. Not surprisingly, men and women don't dance in intimate pairs; later, it's shown that they sleep separately. I imagine the Shakers were probably like this, staid and efficient, in their routine tasks (although worship is another matter altogether).
The people have gathered for their children’s performance, as given by students of the National Ballet School, in Michael Levine's whitewashed community hall, where the stage wings have been blocked with large, grilled windows. They brilliantly enact an adaptation of Robert Browning’s poem, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, narrated by Tom McCamus. The story is famous enough – the colourfully-caped Piper rids a city of rats in return for a sum of money, but this promise is breached, and he consequently lures the people’s children away, except maybe the crippled boy who couldn’t follow fast enough. We will see, in the ballet, how life can cruelly imitate [amateur] art.
Amid the celebration that ensues, a young man named Will (Guillaume Côté), who has been absent for a while, returns, to the joy of everyone. From his gently undulating torso and big, boisterous leaps, it’s apparent that his experience sets him slightly apart from the others. Côté brings a youthful glee to the role. But a little differentiation turns into chaos when he suddenly manifests a “movement disorder” that is highly contagious. Those infected develop a nervous tic, struggling to keep their writhing bodies erect; previously orderly patterns are unravelled, mashed into heaps. Not even his fiancée, Dot (Rebekah Rimsay), and her mother (Xiao Nan Yu), who tries to intervene, are spared.
At this point, Eva, danced by Martine Lamy, appears. In a modest, flesh-coloured dress, she is obviously an outsider. Unlike the rest of then, her arms, her soft grasp, freely reach forward. It is these hands that will cure the community of their affliction, but not before they put aside their suspicions. The male seniors approach her cautiously in clumps, as if threatened by her very presence. They could be thinking, “Can we trust a lone woman who roams on her own, with no husband to discipline her?” Eventually, they strike a deal, though her reward is not known. Summoning her powers in an exhortative solo, she heals them one by one on a raised platform, laying her hands on each person’s chest and back. A tiring process. In a character based on evangelist cum faith healer Aimee Semple McPherson, Lamy cuts a subtly charming figure, despite a fall.
Sex soon comes next. That is, sex between Eva and Will after a heated duet. Which is fine by itself, except two children end up watching them get it on – he unbuckles his pants to expose his boxers; she helps him take them off, straddling him – until the Elder catches the couple. Perhaps he was attracted to her very different manners, while she opened up to his friendliness, acceptance. It wasn't an all-out slutty seduction on her part; it was more like a mutual understanding. In any case, society is appalled by their relationship. The people point accusingly at them, at what they see as a horrible transgression.
Recalling the Matriarch in Doris Humphrey’s With My Red Fires (1936), but with less kooky fanaticism, the Elder violently throws Will aside (thereby injuring him), instigating the community to turn against Eva and undo their contract. Only Dot’s mother supports her, but not that anyone would care – women in the community, even the seniors, hold little authority. The people, led by the Elder, form a long procession of bodies canonically turning away in shame; Eva is no match for them, and they cast her out. But the children don’t seem to agree. To them, she is their Piper, cheated of what she has duly earned. In a bizarre twist of fate, Eva dons the Piper’s gaudy cloak and pulls the children along with her, leaving a limping Will behind, like the lame boy in the story.
The National Ballet Orchestra, conducted by Ormsby Wilkins, rendered Michael Torke’s original score, which underpins the action without overwhelming it, incorporating Jennie Such's wordless soprano voice into its themes. On its world premiere, the audience gave the cast of The Contract a raucous standing ovation. Kudelka just might have added yet another masterpiece to his name.
________________________________ Marie posted 05-06-2002 07:31
PAULA CITRON - Globe & Mail, May 6, 2002:
Pointing the way forward
In adapting the Pied Piper legend, James Kudelka has invented a daring choreographic language for the story ballet
The Contract, his first full-length, original story ballet, looks unlike anything he has created before. Replacing the hallmark Kudelka dense footwork and complicated, dangerous partnering is a straightforward choreographic language that at first seems shockingly retrograde. On reflection, however, Kudelka's deceptively simple movement can also be seen as back to the future in its daring, if not groundbreaking, conceit. Thus, The Contract is a conundrum -- the very new made to look like the very old.
________________________________ Marie posted 05-06-2002 07:33
JOHN COULBOURN - Toronto Sun, May 6, 2002:
Contract ... signed, sealed & delivered
The Contract is stripped of balletic cliche. Gone are old world notions of courtly romance -- the royalty and castles, the enchanted princesses, the enchanting princes and all their magical friends -- replaced by a world every bit as magical but far more pragmatic.
________________________________ Marie posted 05-06-2002 07:37
Marsha Lederman - The Arts Report, CBC, 4 May 2002:
New ballet debuts in Toronto more...
The production uses 54 performers, ranging in age from 11 to 59, and includes principal dancer Rex Harrington.
________________________________ Marie posted 05-09-2002 05:47
EMMA McINTYRE - The Eye, 05.09.02:
THE CONTRACT ****more...
In his unconventional new full-length ballet The Contract, James Kudelka visibly struggles with how far you can push the boundaries of ballet without making it modern dance. But he's up to the challenge.
(Scroll to bottom of page)
________________________________ Marie posted 05-09-2002 06:03
GLENN SUMI - Now Magazine, May 9 - 15, 2002 :
CONTRACT EXPIRES more...
NEW JAMES KUDELKA BALLET IS MARRED BY CLUMSY STORYTELLING AND DERIVATIVE SCORE
james kudelka's the contract needs a major overhaul before it ever gets renewed.The $1.2-million National Ballet of Canada premiere is the most confusing and dramatically empty narrative ballet I've ever seen.
Kudelka fails to establish character through movement, so we never know or care about Will, Dot or even Eva.
________________________________ Marie posted 05-17-2002 09:14
For anyone who missed The Contract in Toronto:
Ottawa Citizen, April 17, 2002:
National Ballet perfoms The Contract
The full-length ballet will play May 5 and May 14-18, then tour to Ottawa's National Arts Centre on May 23-25.
A side note, Robert Sirmin, who wrote the libretto, is the administrative director of the National Ballet School.
________________________________ Michael Goldbarth posted 05-20-2002 13:06
Kudelka Town’s in Hummingbird,
By famous Toronto city;
Where the River Dances, polluted and wide,
Take me for my word,
A more unpleasant ballet you never spied;
But, when begins my ditty,
This past Friday ago,
To see the balletomanes of Meltropolis suffer so
From Kudelka’s choreography, was a pity.
The Contract is not a full-length ballet. The puck dropped at 7:35 pm. Act one 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 and cut out 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 cause 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.
In real life, Aimee Semple McPherson (1890 - 1944) captured the imagination of millions turning people on to Jesus Christ through methods considered very unique in her time. The blond bombshell’s sermons were often dished out with music and theatre. It was not unusual to see a short story from the bible acted out 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 ASM’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 wide-eyed children watch. (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 love about the Contract. The lighting was almost Da Vinci like. Unfortunately, I enjoyed watching the shadows dance more so than the dancers themselves. One to keep an eye on is the lovely Tanya Howard. She’s far too beautiful and far too talented to remain in the corps de ballet. Kudelka better create some soloist roles for her soon before she’s stolen by another company more appreciative of her beauty and dazzling dance technique.
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 edit this work down to one act he may have another masterpiece on his hands. Mr. K. tried to write too much into his Contract. It’s ridiculous to try and 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? Why…James Kudelka would be a perfect choice-in full drag of course! Unless you’re a diehard ballet/Kudelka fan, you’ll only sign on to this Contract one time.
Performance of Dancers: 17/20. Choreography: 12/20. Costumes, Sets & Lighting: 17/20. Story: 8/15. Music: 9/15. Ballet Magic: 6/10. Rating: 69/100.
________________________________ Marie posted 06-08-2002 19:36
Another quote from the Paula Citron article:
Globe & Mail, June 8, 2002:
Weak ticket sales greet National Ballet's Contract
At 65 per cent, attendance for The Contract was just slightly better than the average attendance of 63 per cent for mixed repertoire programs during the season, which typically attract smaller audiences than the full-length ballets. The Contract was budgeted to sell 72 per cent.
Despite the disappointment over The Contract's box office, the company stands solidly behind the production. Says outgoing executive director Valerie Wilder: "The Contract was a splendid accomplishment by James, and was a wonderful conclusion to the National's 50th-anniversary year. . . It is exactly the kind of new creation this company should be doing."
________________________________ Michael Goldbarth posted 06-09-2002 07:38
Another interesting quote from the Paula Citron article:
NBoC Director of Communications, Julia Drake, reports that the National is looking into touring The Contract, as well as bringing it back into the repertoire as soon as possible.
I find it quite difficult to understand the logic in this. If a ballet hotbed like Toronto did not warm up to the Contract how will Vancouver, Saskatoon or the Atlantic Provinces warm up to Kudelka’s newest creation? Most in the audience thought it was a bore. It may have appealed to half the audience and that’s only because that half are either volunteers for the National Ballet of Canada, friends or relatives of the dancers, former students or students of the National Ballet School, or ballet fanatics. Casual or 1st time ballet fans are not going to want to see a full diet of Contract like ballets. They want classics or something with entertainment value. Of course, that is only my opinion. I did overhear a few ballet fans in line at a restaurant across the street from the Hummingbird Centre and needless to say they were not overly impressed with the way they spent 2 hours of their evening. Bottom line: If the NBoC wishes to prosper they better start making ballet that will appeal to the casual or 1st time ballet fan.
________________________________ Marie posted 06-09-2002 07:54
But they do present classical works. I didn't read anything in that article that said they are only going to program contemporary ballets. The 2002/03 season consists of The Firebird, La Bayadere, A Delicate Battle, La Fille Mal Gardee, Nut, Swan Lake, Napoli, Spectre, Elite Syncopations, Tristan & Isolde and Jewels. That's a lot of classical stuff mixed with a good dose of "entertainment value" -- and dare I say there will also be some 'ballet magic' there too.
At any rate, I think it's great that a company like the NBoC is producing works like The Contract. Kudos for Kudelka for taking chances in an art form that tends to vere towards what will be safely received by the public as 'real art.' 'Art for artists' is not a bad thing once in a while, IMHO... but I guess that's just the artist in me talking.
________________________________ Michael Goldbarth posted 06-09-2002 09:35
Yes. The 2002/2003 season should be very appealing. Though I think they brought back the Firebird and Swan Lake a little too early.