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PostPosted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:22 am 
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Paula Citron raves over R&J!

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“In 2009, Reilly, now with Stuttgart Ballet, is 29 and a guest artist with the National Ballet of Canada. His Romeo in John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet is near perfection.

…If truth be told, Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet is a failsafe ballet because the choreography is such a wonderful match for the music. When dancers go beyond mere steps to invest themselves in the characters and the story, then magic happens on stage. Such was the National's opening-night performance of this much-loved ballet.”


Jason Reilly danced and silent acted wunderbar to John Coulbourn…not so for much of the supporting cast.

Quote:
…First off, the august company has most certainly added another impressive arrow to its quiver of talent in acquiring the services and skills of Toronto native Jason Reilly, recently lured home from the Stuttgart Ballet as the NBOC's newest principal dancer.

…But for the rest of this company, there seems to be a whole lot of dancing going on -- and very little else.

In the opening scene's Verona street brawl fight, macho young bravos wave deadly swords with just about as much menace as the bridesmaids wield their lilies in Act III -- and otherwise excellent dancers like Piotr Stanczy (Mercutio), Stephanie Hutchinson (Lady Capulet) and Brett van Sickle (Paris) seem to think that it is enough to merely show up and dance.

…Right now, Romeo and Juliet may shine, but frankly, Verona -- and the people who live there -- is sadly forgettable.

This may be ballet, but finally, the play is still the thing.


* This is a surprising comment given the other gushing reviews about the performance of the dancers. I have been disappointed by every R&J I’ve seen at the Stratford Festival and have always found the ballet a much more satisfying experience.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 8:33 am 
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I think Coulbourn's response probably reflects the choreographic and set shortcomings of this production. My guess is that the company, in part, has stuck with this production because it's one that works for a smaller company. However, the combination of a large stage, a relatively small cast and poorly conceived sets makes it hard for even the best dancers to create a vivid, bustling world.

As to the question about images of the Erik Bruhn Competition - to my knowledge the only images available are the ones you can see on the page for the competition at the NBoC website. One is of the winners, and a couple are of the Canadian dancers. My impression is that they didn't have anyone photographing the actual competition other than a few quick shots of the award presentation ceremony.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 9:10 am 
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My impression is that they didn't have anyone photographing the actual competition other than a few quick shots of the award presentation ceremony.


Ah, I see. Thanks, Kate!


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 9:56 am 
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I think Coulbourn’s response probably reflects the choreographic and set shortcomings of this production. My guess is that the company, in part, has stuck with this production because it’s one that works for a smaller company. However, the combination of a large stage, a relatively small cast and poorly conceived sets makes it hard for even the best dancers to create a vivid, bustling world.
Kate

John Coulbourn is entitled to his opinion for what it is worth. I value it least of all the Toronto newspaper critics. I cannot concur with Kate’s argument that Coulbourn’s opinion about the quality of the silent acting was affected by the choreography and inferior set, as this conflicts directly with his opinion that the choreography and set were both of high quality.

Quote:
Of course, the production looks magnificent, thanks to Susan Benson’s glorious 1995 re-fit and the lighting of Robert Thomson, and when it comes to sound, it's all but impossible to fault the panache with which Sergie Prokofiev’s glorious score is served up by the NBOC Orchestra under principal conductor David Briskin.

And happily, the magic of Cranko’s timeless choreography shines through undiminished, thanks to a company that still views technique as its gold standard.


Everybody in the audience is going to be influenced differently by a performance based on their own life experience, prejudices, feelings, etc. etc. I don’t believe one poor review is going to stop someone from purchasing a ticket for a performance unless ALL the reviews are negative and then one has to assume that ticket buyers actually go to the trouble of reading all the reviews.

I stand by my review found in full on page 2 of this topic:

Quote:
The beauty of Cranko’s choreography is speaking the Bard of Avon through nothing more than silent acting, movement, and music. You don’t have to read the program to follow the story. You don’t even have to be familiar with the story. Words become unnecessary; the dance speaks for itself…

...Their love duet climaxes in breathtaking upside down lifts and gorgeous fish dives. Cranko imbues his R&J with many intoxicating high lifts that require split second timing and trust in your partner. Ogden and Côté danced in perfect concert as celestial instruments for Cranko’s eternal gift to Terpsichore.

...To think John Cranko was worried his Romeo & Juliet would not survive the toughest critic of all: Time. He once wrote:

Quote:
“A Bach can die and leave behind his Brandenburg concertos for a world to come. A choreographer is lost forever.”

This version of his R&J has survived since its debut in 1962 and might just live as long as the National Ballet of Canada is alive and well. Only his version has played on its stage since 1964. This is one ballet which won’t be Kudelkaized! Of course, I’m sure the Stuttgart Ballet will likewise keep John Cranko’s R&J alive.


I also stand by the above statement that the National Ballet of Canada will dance John Cranko’s Romeo & Juliet for eternity. It defines who they are and they will keep it.

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Last edited by Michael Goldbarth on Fri Mar 13, 2009 11:57 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 10:40 am 
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Michael Crabb chimes in on R&J with a glowing review!

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Mind you, for all their star power, Hodgkinson and Reilly do not obliterate their stage companions. Strong leads tend to animate a whole performance, as was clearly evident on opening night, from Etienne Lavigne’s fiery Tybalt, through Piotr Stanczyk’s buoyant Mercutio to even the thoughtful detailing of Kevin Bowles's Friar Laurence.


Something tells me Crabb’s pre-ballet dinner was of much higher quality than where John Coulbourn ate, who is employed by a fast food newspaper! :lol:

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:24 pm 
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Here is an interesting review of last night’s performance of R&J by a fan. This is a must read just to see a photo of Piotr Stanczyk, who danced with supreme confidence and in my opinion stole the show!

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:20 pm 
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My bad...I didn't read the full review.

I still think the costumes and lighting leave a lot to be desired. Generally Jurgen Rose's designs don't need improving upon.

But I do agree with that there is almost no chance of NBoC changing productions. Besides their very personal connection to Cranko's version, they don't have much competition. By that, I mean that the vast majority of audience members are unlikely to have seen another version of "Romeo and Juliet", so wouldn't have anything to compare Cranko against. As I've said, I have nothing against Cranko (Onegin is one of my favorite ballets), but having seen MacMillan's version and Neumeier's as well (albeit only in rehearsal), Cranko doesn't move me the way the other two do.

Kate


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 14, 2009 7:19 am 
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Clement Crisp reviews the recent mixed fare.

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Alas, the third creation, Dextris by Sabrina Matthews, was a vexation to the spirit. The members of the Toronto Mendelssohn choir, robed in tiresome grey cloaks, are penned in two scaffolding enclosures high on either side of the stage. Below them, five couples in cheerless outfits struggle murkily, like disaffected wrestlers. Vivaldi's Dixit Dominus chugs on, and, to my aghast gaze, dance and music never meet. I asked myself: "Why this score, why this dance?" Answer came there none.

So this brave (no matter about the latter piece) evening. New work. Life blood. Thought for the future. Cheers and more cheers. Floreat Karen Kain and her company.


The CBC talks to Jason Reilly.

Quote:
What he will miss about leaving Germany is its accessibility to other European centres: "An hour's flight, you're in Paris, Holland, a lot of great places for about $100."

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 11:26 am 
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My Muse finally inspired me enough to post my reflections on the R&Js I attended this past Thursday and Friday Evening.

It’s official, the National Ballet of Canada is in a recession! Rex Harrington was left to his lonesome for BOTH Ballet Talks I attended-Not that his ego couldn’t handle it. Rex reminisced about dancing with many ballerinas who have bourréed their way into the history books: Carla Fracci, Evelyn Hart, Veronica Tenant, and of course, Karen Kain. Usually they have a host like Michael Crabb to ask questions or spark new conversation. I just didn’t think it fair to leave him up there all alone. He experienced a case of dry throat and lost his train of thought a few times. BTW: There were no Ballet Notes programs available. More evidence the current bank and government manufactured economic crisis has hit the National. Note: A lot of companies will go bankrupt as a result creating dangerous monopolies as the competition is wiped out.

FYI for Rex: John Cranko did not pass away in a plane crash; he passed away while asleep on a flight from Philadelphia to Stuttgart. He had taken a sleeping sedative (chloral hydrate) and choked on his own vomit. At the time, many newspapers falsely assumed he had taken his own life because of previous battles with depression and alcohol. There have also been reports Cranko perished in a plane crash. Rex probably read the plane crash story and somehow it stuck in his head-Not someone you want to sit behind if you value an unobstructed view of the stage! Curiously, there was no mention of his partnership with Kimberly Glasco. Obviously, Rex Harrington does not read CD, as otherwise he would have read about how Cranko passed away in my R&J review from 2006. To his credit, he acknowledged late comers who sat behind him, who most ignore. That’s enough of the Ballet Talk; onto my critique of R&J.

Kate mentioned issues with the lighting (not enough of it). I could see everything from my view in front row A of Ring 3. I did use opera glasses for many variations. For moi Sonia Rodriguez & Zdenek Konvalina along with the pairing of Chan Hon Goh & Aleksandar Antonijevic just didn’t summon the raw spring of youth generated by the Heather Ogden/Guillaume Côté duet I’ve seen over the years. Double AA gave an amazing performance considering he is getting up there in ballerino years. He may look like the fountain of youth on stage but I’m willing to wager he emerged late Saturday morning with quite a few aches and groans! Hon Goh and AA obviously gave a more mature performance than the youthful Konvalina and getting up there in ballerina years Rodriguez.
From my view of the stage, neither partnership worked. Hon Goh evoked images of an aunt to her love struck Romeo and sadly Sonia Rodriguez, as lovely as she is evoked images of an older sister to her goo-goo eyed Romeo. Next go around, I’m sure we’ll see Bridgett Zehr play his Juliet. There will be no more R&Js for Chan Hon Goh (retiring) and AA plus Sonia Rodriguez, who are approaching the winter stage of their careers at the Four Seasons. I admit it; I am a spoiled ballet fan who needs to see his FAVs. It was the difference between apple pie with whipped cream and without! Unfortunately, the dates were not convenient for me to partake of the Ogden/Côté parfait and hence I suffered.

Fortunately, Piotr Stanczyk stepped up to alleviate some of my suffering with a show stealing performance as Romeo’s good buddy Mercutio. He has quite a heavy dance load to move the story along in a supporting role. Stanczyk really took charge on stage and thus inspired quite a few well earned BRAVOS!

As for the choreography, I love the Cranko version and it fits like the proverbial glove onto the National Ballet of Canada. And yes Kate, I have seen other versions of R&J. For example: I’ve watched the Kenneth MacMillan Teatro Alla Scala DVD version with Angel Corella and Alessandra Ferri. Not every company boasts a 70 plus roster. Try touring with the MacMillan edition. All hail John Cranko! It really is a shame he passed away at such an early age: 45.

Now I’m going to break a ballet critic’s unwritten rule and extend kudos and bravi galore to an unnamed dancer in the ballet program: Antonella Martinelli! She created such beauty on stage, always in character, dancing as if she was living her sweet dream; I couldn’t help but divert my orbs to her when I should have been watching the main action on stage! Martinelli evokes memories of the silent screen actress Louise Brooks, in that you immediately pick her out of a crowd. If only the National could somehow capture her ‘je ne sais quoi’ and bottle this living work of art! I admit it; I am a victim of her ballerina magnetism. Below is a review of Antonella Martinelli from ‘An Italian Straw Hat.’

Quote:
“One dancer who I was quite smitten over danced and silent acted with such ebullience I noticed her all the way from the corps de ballet. The apple of my eye radiated a Snow White/Betty Boop/Charleston Girl kind of beauty. Perhaps she was a new dancer recently hired from another company, a call up from the National Ballet School, or contracted to fill out casting. Sadly, I have no idea who this beauty is? I cannot critique her ballet dancing as her role just called for watching the story unfold on stage and do some waltzing. She was often paired with Alejandra Perez-Gomez. Kudos to the mystery brunette for always staying in character and so obviously enjoying her time on stage.”


There you have it; an undiscovered talent, at long last discovered! I hope Mrs. K gives her some soloist roles like the pussy cat in Sleeping Beauty, a chocolate in the Nutcracker, or filly for An Italian Straw Hat. She looks like she would be a great Kitri for Don Quixote. We’ll have to wait and see what the future has in store for this delicious silent screen beauty. The time has come to bid adieu to the cobwebs of ballerina antiquity and make way for the sweet dew of youth! :wink:

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Last edited by Michael Goldbarth on Sun Mar 15, 2009 12:10 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 11:46 am 
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Not that his ego couldn’t handle it.


Ha! Indeed.

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From my view of the stage, neither partnership worked.


That's a shame, Michael. I hoping Nehemiakh Kish/Xiao Nan Yu fare better. I'll let you know.

Thanks for the review!


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 1:59 pm 
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You’re welcome Keira. I figured your Romeo was the handsome Nehemiah Kish.

* Rex Harrington is fortunate he still has all his hair. I don’t believe they make hats large enough to fit over his ego, which I believe has actually become larger since his retirement-If that is indeed possible! :lol:

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:20 am 
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I found a very interesting bloggerina about the Clement Crisp Ballet Talk. This is a MUST read!

Quote:
· Ballet is rife with snobbery that prevents broad attendance and the sharing of opinions
· Clement Crisp’s advice: you cannot be wrong with art. “If you come to the ballet and you love it, hoorah. If you don’t love it hoorah too.”
· Ballet is not a museum art. It must keep moving on with new things. Failure to recognize this will kill ballet attendance over the next 50 years.
· “Ballet is the only art where not one stupid word is said all night…from the stage, that is.”

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:19 pm 
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Leigh Witchel reviews the mixed program in intimate detail with some nice photos.

Quote:
Crystal Pite moved from dancing with Ballet British Columbia to a career with William Forsythe at Ballet Frankfurt, but her work doesn’t look particularly like his. “Emergence” with a commissioned digital score by Owen Belton was inspired by a parallel between the hierarchy of classical ballet and that of bees. It recalled more than a little another well-known insect ballet, Jerome Robbins’ “The Cage.”

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:52 pm 
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Thanks for the links, Michael! Annie White (the "bloggerina") has a great picture of the Emergence curtain call on her Flikr (along with some other great ballet pics).


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:41 pm 
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I don’t care what anybody says, they look like bats!

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