Penelope Reed Doob (Chair and Professor of Dance at York University) was kind enough to illustrate precisely what was ailing John Alleyne’s version of Tristan and Isolde inside the National Ballet of Canada’s ballet program:
Alleyne is quite unusual among ballet choreographers in that he tends to create movement in the studio independently of the score, indeed even before that section of the score may be written. Instead, he choreographs to counts, the tempo set by an electronic metronome.
Of course, this was not intended to be a criticism. Professor Doob obligingly puckered up most profusely inside Performance magazine for her employers: The National Ballet of Canada.
Professor Doob puckered up so much, she reminded me a little of Iraqi Minister of Misinformation, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf. Whiles others were semi-absorbed in the ballet, I giggled away to myself as Greta Hodgkinson and Christopher Body attempted the impossible: Dance the music of Michael Bushnell and Owen Underhill to life. The whole pointe of ballet is to dance music to life. For that to happen, the steps must go in concert with the music. Not that I didn’t enjoy the music. It was quite beautiful. Much of the choreography was likewise beautiful. Too bad the duo came together like peanut butter spread over cauliflower.
The same could be said for Hodgkinson and Body. Either they had a spat before the Sunday matinee I attended or they were too busy trying to recall the steps to bother with any acting. Quite a shame, considering the beautiful bodies involved, that they couldn’t whip up any passion for the dinosaurs in attendance who were no doubt lured by the NBoC’s playful tagline: Come to the Ballet!
Don’t come to Tristan and Isolde until the National reworks the music and choreography. The music was far too uniform and to fully tell the story, Alleyne will have to add another 15 minutes of choreography. It felt a little too short at 2 hours minus a 20-minute intermission. The 2nd act looked like it was thrown together overnight. If Rex Harrington is to play the Uncle to Tristan again, he should consider adding some white streaks to his black locks to age him a little. Getting more of the company involved in the ballet would also be a good idea.
The only part of this ballet that doesn’t require revamping is the set and costume design by Kim Nielson along with the lighting by Gerald King. They transported me to a faraway world of mystery and passion. That alone should make it worth the trouble to fix this out of step Tristan and Isolde.
At a top price of $114 per ticket, the National possessed a lot of nerve to present this production. I wouldn’t have been this critical had the NBoC not blowed their own horn so much. There was nothing to blow over. As evidenced by the unusually critical reviews by veteran critics Michael Crabb, Paula Citron and William Littler, the NBoC had it coming. The unfavorable reviews were richly deserved. This duet of Tristan and Isolde is strictly PG.
Performance of Dancers: 13/20. Choreography: 9/20. Costumes, Sets, and Lighting: 18/20. Ballet Magic: 7/20. Music: 5/10. Story: 4/10. Rating: 56/100.
<small>[ 08 May 2003, 10:12 AM: Message edited by: Michael Goldbarth ]</small>