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PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 8:18 am 
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Looks like we’re in for a treat for the upcoming Carmen!

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Hedonistic passion, conflicting interests, and solitude. These are some of the key words to describe the plotline of the National Ballet of Canada’s latest feature production, Carmen, which is guided by one of the world’s most highly acclaimed choreographers, Davide Bombana.


The Toronto Star previews Skin Divers.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 11:07 am 
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Oooh, I want to here all about it!


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 06, 2009 7:20 am 
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Former NBoC ballerina, Jennifer Fournier, writes about Dominique Dumais creating Skin Divers and Susan Walker talks to 3 horny guys with the hots for Carmen!

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"Sexual tension" was what Bombana sought in the relationship between Escamillo and Carmen. Indeed, they don't actually dance together. "We're not trying to make any sort of balletic shape," says Jonathan Renna. "He wants something more on the ugly side, unrecognizable."

The toreador's costume is arresting in itself. Renna wears "fun-fur chaps, I'm bare-chested and bear a headpiece with these gigantic horns of eight or nine inches." The non-human effect is completed with body paint in a charcoal, silvery-grey hue covering the upper body. The power of the bullfighter is offset with Bombana's gender-bending touch: transvestite toreadors in flamenco skirts. Ultra-macho meets mock femininity.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2009 12:29 am 
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In a few words - Skin Divers is a dud, Carmen is a cracking can't-miss and a star is born in Noah Long.


The National Ballet of Canada
Skin Divers & Carmen
June 6, 2009
Four Seasons Centre


The final program of the National Ballet of Canada’s 2008-09 season provided an apt reflection of a season as a whole: what began slightly unfocused and underwhelming, finished with passion, fire and energy. On this evening, the North American premiere of Dominique Dumais’ “Skin Divers” was far less than the sum of its parts, while “Carmen”, deliciously re-imagined by Davide Bombana left the departing audience with a truly satisfying view of the National Ballet at its most powerful.

The company’s brochure trumpets Dominique Dumais as one of “Canadian choreography’s most important voices”, but in “Skin Divers”, she has let her multitude of ideas overwhelm the dance. Dumais’ choreography, set to an intriguing, if not entirely melodic selection of music by Gavin Bryars’, shares the stage with Tatyana van Walsum’s sets and videos projected on a scrim and Anne Michael’s poetry. The poetry, which provided the inspiration for the ballet and the title, is moving, the projections of close up shots of a female torso are captivating, and Bryars’ music, is almost mesmerizing. However, all together with the choreography, it’s a cacophony, artistic chaos. If I concentrated on the poetry, my mind wandered from the dancers, if I focused on the dance or the projections, I couldn’t follow the poetry. Given the very lackluster applause, it would appear that much of the audience was equally as unable to grasp the piece as a whole. I’ve seen a few similar disasters before, and it’s a shame that someone didn’t step in and guide Dumais away from attempting to be jack of all trades and a master of none. Simply omitting the spoken word would have made a world difference in making the piece a unified, watchable whole.
Even with the multitude of distractions there seemed to be some gaps in the choreographic foundation of the piece. Bryars’ modern music though danceable, is challenging fare even for the most brilliant of choreographic minds like Christopher Wheeldon. In this instance, Dumais, whose choreographic idiom is heavy on the right angle of deep plies in second, and tangled pas de deuxs, didn’t effectively join movement and music. As such, the steps rarely had the feeling of emerging from or working with the music. It was almost as if the score had been added as an after thought, not used as the foundation upon which the choreography was built.
“Skin Divers” begins with four couples emerging behind the scrim upon which an extreme close-up on a naked female torso is projected. Whether by intent, or by virtue of my angle to the stage, the relative placement of the torso and the dancers’ entrance gave the appearance of a birth. The first part of the piece continues behind the scrim, which later lifts to allow the piece to finish with an image of a single human eye blinking on the backdrop. The eye is captivating - perhaps too much so, as it draws the attention just as Dumais’ choreography is beginning to pick up strength and cohesion. Thought the piece itself has some crucial flaws, one struggles to find anything but praise in terms of the performance. The men in particular, led by the company’s great young talent, Keiichi Hirano, were powerful, and fully committed to the choreography. Praise also to the string quartet, and the emotive lighting by Mark Stanley.

In comparison, Davide Bombana had a clear vision for making “Carmen” his own, which he executed in a piece that blazes along to the gripping finale. Originally created for the Ballet du Capitole, a French company led by a former NYCB dancer, the ballet strips the story of Carmen down to the bare essentials. Framed by a semi-circle of metal evoking factory facades, fire escapes and an industrial hell, this “Carmen” is independent of a specific era or location. It is simply about passion, flirtation, temptation and the fatal consequences of mixing the three together.

The magic in Bombana’s “Carmen” is in his ability to turn the traditional on its head without losing the essence of the story. Georges Bizets’ classic score forms the underpinnings of the score, but the majority is a cleverly edited combination ranging from Rodion Shchedrin to Meredith Monk to Jose Serebrier and Tambours du Bronx. The costumes, mostly in shades of black, grey and red, generally reflect a street-wise urban hip, but Carmen and Michaela’s costumes hint at more balletic traditions, even in the modern cuts.

Though his idiom is neither pure ballet nor pure contemporary, Bombana never looks lost between the two. He’s not afraid to use balletic steps or jumps, yet at ease with shifting directly from fluidity to sharp angles. And the dancers leap at every opportunity. This season has made it clear that the NBoC dancers are fluent in far more than just ballet, and “Carmen” marked the pinnacle of their cross-over achievement. It’s not hyperbole to say that what took the ballet from brilliant to breathtaking was the incredible casting and the passion of each and every dancer on the stage.


In what is undoubtedly his breakout role, Noah Long was a passionate, conflicted, arrogant, steely, volatile Don Jose. It was hard to believe that this was the same young man who danced a brilliant, but emotionally one-dimensional “Le Corsaire” just a couple of months ago in the Erik Bruhn Competition. At this performance, we saw a character imbued with barely contained simmering tension and dancing that was explosive yet emotional. It was the incredible technique from "Le Corsaire" plus a fully emotionally developed character. One might say this role made a man out of the boy and hope that a promotion is in the works. For if the company is looking for talent to follow in the footsteps of dancers like Harrington, Antonijevic, Kish and Cote, they need look no farther.

Opposite Long, Ogden was perfectly cast as the hard-edged Carmen. Ogden seems to thrive in the bad-girl roles that require emotional power in a steely package. Petite she may be, but dainty she’s most certainly not. Bombana’s Carmen is as much seductress as flirt, hardened in the ways of the world, to the point where she only emerges briefly from her shell to let Jose’s love into her soul. Ogden’s fearless, but powerfully controlled dancing is the perfect match for the character – she moves every limb with purpose, giving the motion weight, but stopping in a heartbeat. Much of the score is heavily percussive, a perfect soundtrack for this strength of movement. Her face remains hardened most of the time, the brief emotional openings that appear when she’s with Don Jose visible in her changing body language.
Robert Stephen, as the gypsy leader Garcia, also tackles a role that marks a major step forward in his development as a dancer. The tattooed, brazen character on stage is light years away from the baby-faced dancer pictured in the program. Sonia Rodriguez makes a brief appearance as Michaela, but in her purple dress looks as if she took a magic fire escape ride from West Side Story to Carmen. Kudos also to Lise-Marie Jourdain, who in her brief solo as Carmen’s adversary put the bitch back in blond, proving that the fair-haired can fight with the best them.
In a ballet full of innovation, it was hard to top Bombana’s gender-bending take on the toreador’s dance. Eschewing the traditional, we are presented with four men outfitted in full flamenco outfit, let by the strutting bull, Escamillo. One can’t help but smile as the cross-dancing toreadors, but the scene cleverly avoids all-out Trock-esque humour and plays on age-old symbolism. For, of course, the bull has been a symbol of fertility and masculinity for millennia, and the toreador’s dance has always been about machisimo. Bombana also brings a modern twist to the dance, by taking here (and earlier with Carmen) the traditional fan and enlarging it to outsized proportions. The huge, unadorned black fans, wielded by the toreadors and Carmen, create striking images, which project well into a huge theatre, dispensing with the dainty and replacing it with an unsettling symbolism. It is as if this very symbol of feminine daintiness and seduction is being twisted into something more masculine darker – the dark side of both Carmen’s seduction and Don Jose’s masculinity perhaps. Jonathan Renna’s Escamillo was boldly danced, horns and all. A note of praise too for the corps, who though occasionally appearing slightly tired – many of the dancers were probably in the earlier matinee performance - attacked that choreography with relish and passion.
So, while the program is uneven, the power of Carmen leaves the audience buzzing at the end. There’s nothing better than to see dancers step into a new realm, redefining their limits and abilities. It bodes well for the exciting season to come, and chances for these up and coming young dancers to continue their development in new roles (and hopefully with new ranks!). Happy summer and happy dancing!


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2009 7:18 am 
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Thanks so much for the fantastic review Kate! Your keyboard must have been burning up to whip up 1,524 words in such a short span of time! I liked the below:

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Opposite Long, Ogden was perfectly cast as the hard-edged Carmen. Ogden seems to thrive in the bad-girl roles that require emotional power in a steely package. Petite she may be, but dainty she’s most certainly not. Bombana’s Carmen is as much seductress as flirt, hardened in the ways of the world, to the point where she only emerges briefly from her shell to let Jose’s love into her soul. Ogden’s fearless, but powerfully controlled dancing is the perfect match for the character – she moves every limb with purpose, giving the motion weight, but stopping in a heartbeat. Much of the score is heavily percussive, a perfect soundtrack for this strength of movement. Her face remains hardened most of the time, the brief emotional openings that appear when she’s with Don Jose visible in her changing body language.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2009 5:21 pm 
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Was at the performance this afternoon.

Re Skindivers - would be content if I never saw this one again. Too much going on - music, slides, poetry and oh yeah dancing. I think the dancing would have been better served without all the other. The lighting perhaps gave the idea of dancers under water, but beyond that it was so dark that things were hard to see. Dancers did their best, but not a great vehicle for them.

Re Carmen - I still thought the choreography was a bit too choppy (daughters were in the audience too and they concur), but this was SO much more enjoyable than Skindivers. AA was superb !! :) BZ danced quite well, but would not have been my choice for the character of Carmen. She looks so young that she is not a convincing sexual seductress (apologies to her fans! I love her too - but prefer her in different roles).......


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2009 7:03 am 
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Susan Walker liked Skin Divers:

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Dominique Dumais' dance interpretation of Anne Michaels' poetry is a tour de force, an ode to the sensuous apprehension of the most alive moments when we are in thrall to another. Michaels' reading of "Skin Divers" makes a kind of music with "Last Night's Moon" as its coda.


Carmen looks good too:

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Heather Ogden's Carmen is haughty, full of attitude. She can cause a cataclysm with a look. Tina Pereira is a petite sizzler, Carmen as catalyst to the men she brings down with a flick of her finger or pointed toe.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 08, 2009 10:23 am 
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Paula Citron weighs in on the mixed fare:

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The National Ballet of Canada's mixed program of Dominique Dumais's Skin Divers and Davide Bombana's Carmen may not be as satisfying as one might have liked, but the program's visionary choreographers share a penchant for bold, direct movement and striking visual effects.

Nonetheless, both of these North American premieres faltered for me. Where Dumais went overboard on theatrical elements, Bombana did not go far enough in defining raging hormones.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 10:29 am 
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Michael Crabb reviews Skin Divers & Carmen:

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“If you've ever fancied the idea of watching dance through a thicket of pubic hair, then the National Ballet of Canada has just the ticket for you.

… Despite a few gasps from Saturday afternoon's opening audience, there's nothing remotely prurient in the images. Though often distracting, they are merely one of five components whereby Quebec-born, Germany-based choreographer Dominique Dumais seeks to animate the celebrated poetry of Canadian Anne Michaels. Besides Dumais' choreography for four couples, the others are Gavin Bryars' haunting String Quartet No. 2, Mark Stanley's dreamily atmospheric lighting and Michaels' recorded rendering of her poems. The trouble is these elements never satisfyingly gel.”

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 8:03 pm 
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Ballet blogger posts some H.O double T. photos from Carmen and declares Carmen sizzles whiles Skin Divers fizzles!

NOW Magazine gives the program a big thumbs down.

Torontoist talks to Tina Pereira.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2009 6:55 am 
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Eye Weekly reviews the mixed program with a beautiful photo of Heather Ogden as Carmen.

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“José (Noah Long), the man who tries unsuccessfully to tame the wild woman, has his moments in his duets with the sweetheart (the graceful Sonia Rodriguez) he leaves for Carmen. During a courtship duet with Ogden, Long becomes just the partner she needs to create enough lift to pull off her signature leg extensions and centre splits.

It’s a smart move by the NBC to time this double billing during the week long, citywide arts fest. The combination of modern ballet and naughty ballerinas is sure to make those unfamiliar with the company take notice.”

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 2009 7:31 am 
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Check out Heather Ogden dressed to the 99s! :D

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She is a knockout in a one-shouldered black sheath by Designers Remix Collection that is very Audrey Hepburn. And it won't break the piggy bank at a reasonable $489.

She would be red hot at White Hot in a scarlet Marie Saint Pierre rumba number ($480) but the black cocktail dress still calls, "Come to mamma."

"Maybe I should be like one of those celebs who changes throughout the performance and wear both dresses," she jokes. "I love red. It flatters blonds and I am usually blond. I dyed my hair for Carmen – I need black hair. "

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 2009 12:23 pm 
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Quote:
Under the big-top
of stars, cows drift
from enclosures, bellies brushing
the high grass, ready for their heavy
festivities. Lowland gleams like mica
in the rain. Starlight
soaks our shoes.
The seaweed field begs, the same
burlap field that in winter cracks with frost,
is splashed by the black brush
of crows. Frozen sparklers of Queen Anne’s lace.


It’s a shame the Muses of Dominique Dumais for Music, Terpsichore, and Cinematography could not live up to or dance in concert with the above dreamy verse from Anne Michaels, Skin Divers. The dancers were almost invisible, as a woman in the buff, who may have been the choreographer herself, was projected upon a large scrim. It was certainly very creative and daring for Dumais to juggle nudity, poetry, music, and dance; unfortunately, the above did not remain airborne for me. I would like to see her give it another go with a stimulus package budget and more time. It’s difficult enough choreographing steps to dance music to life but here you also have the challenge of dancing the verse of Anne Michaels to life.

There were no boos-Toronto audiences are far too polite for booing. There was polite applause and that was all. This ballet created no intermission buzz and will soon be swept into the sandcastles of time never to come ashore into the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts again. Given the recent all or nothing success of dance makers showing off their new works, I seriously doubt the NBoC will ever go down the Mr. K route again and hire a choreographer in residence or choreographer slash Artistic Director. It’s better to check out what you like rather than making a long term commitment, which may prove expensive to untangle.

Case in pointe: Carmen by Davide Bombana. Note to Mrs. K: We need more crowd pleasers like Carmen! This is a splendid example of where reinventing ballet to make it relevant for a new generation actually works! Picture Carmen set in a futuristic Logan’s Run metallic Bullring of Depravity and you have a Carmen for today and tomorrow. Bombana blends the past of George Bizet (171) with the more recent pasts of Rodion Konstantinovich Shchedrin (Родион Константинович Щедрин), still alive and composing at 76, José Serebrier (70), Meredith Jane Monk (66) along with the steamy, dark percussions of the present in Les Tambours Du Bronx.

Bombaba gives us something new from old and the duo gel to perfection allowing the dancers freedom to silent act the story through his striptease-inspired dance steps and the audience freedom to choose between good and evil or perhaps none at all with the true nature of the characters responsible for their fates. This Carmen is cool, funny, rapturous, and tragic. The cool are the cigarette girls and smoking hot costumes. The funny are the gender bending toreadors, en pointe to boot, making mockery of human sexuality. The rapturous is the gypsy Prima Ballerina Assoluta Carmen making out with all the banditos along with a gray horned bull. The tragic is the death of Carmen as she commits suicide impaling herself onto the dagger of Don José to keep her independent carnal spirit for eternity.

I surfaced for the sinful performances of June 10th and the 11th. Both Heather Ogden and Bridgett Zehr exuded carnality bumping and grinding on the stage. I found Ogden to be a more tragic Carmen, especially when she allowed herself to be boffed by the beast, Escamillo. I had the feeling Miss Zehr was willing to go a 2nd or maybe even 3rd round! Why not bring out a trio of bulls and have Carmen on top to finish them off and then have their horns deflate? Both Carmens were provided ample opportunity to show off their steely Marlene Dietrich legs and tight tutus!

It was a breakout performance for Noah Long as Don José but most impressive for me was Aleksandar Antonijevic, almost unrecognizable hiding beneath his goatee-moustache. Double A injected his Don José with loads of testosterone but still gave a very sensitive Romeo like portrayal over the loss of Carmen. Though pushing the big 4-0, AA still boasts washboard dancer’s abs us regular balletomanes would die for. Bravo!

Sonia Rodriguez was a very sweet Michaela, as opposed to Stephanie Hutchison who tried but I just don’t believe sweetness is in her dance nature.

The only criticisms I have to offer is for more dramatic lighting; more eroticism by having Carmen slowly peel off some black nylons, and more smoking! FYI: Bridgett Zehr was a much better smoker than Heather Ogden-Probably because she smokes in real life.

Davide Bombana obviously invested much time and careful thought to create his version of Carmen. Keep your eyes glued to the stage or you’ll miss a scene like when Carmen tiptoes over a fallen Don José. I guarantee you, we will see the return of this Carmen and it will likely tour as well-Assuming the venue is large enough to accommodate the sets. I doubt you will see the re-emergence of Skin Divers.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 12:01 pm 
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I saw the show on Saturday night (June 13). Skin Divers was interesting and I enjoyed it well enough (the dancers were excellent, and I always love watching them!), but it didn't wow me. Overall it was a little too much like pretentious performance art as opposed to ballet. I agree with others that there was too much going on (I was ready for that screen to be lifted long before it was) and it didn't hang together that well. I wouldn't particularly want to see it again, and I agree with Michael that it's unlikely to reappear at the NBoC.

Carmen was definitely the highlight of the evening. Heather Ogden was simply incredible. What a tour de force! She was breathtaking. Noah Long was also excellent, and Robert Stephen stands out in my memory as Garcia. I wasn't sure what to make of the comical toreador's dance, as the tonal shift was a bit jarring to me. It was enjoyable, though. The ballet flew by, and I was riveted throughout. I'd love to see it again in the future.

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FYI: Bridgett Zehr was a much better smoker than Heather Ogden-Probably because she smokes in real life.


It amazes me that anyone smokes given the health risks, but it amazes me even more when dancers do. I'd think they'd need their full lung capacity out there!


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 5:57 pm 
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Overall it was a little too much like pretentious performance art as opposed to ballet.


I hope Mrs. K reads the above and pauses for some serious reflection!

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I wasn't sure what to make of the comical toreador's dance, as the tonal shift was a bit jarring to me.


I found the above a little odd upon 1st viewing but then it made more sense for me seeing it a 2nd time. It also made me see the potential for turning Carmen into a comedic ballet.

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It amazes me that anyone smokes given the health risks…


Agree 150% with the above. One of the most infamous dancers with questionable habits was Gelsey Kirkland from NYCB, who subsisted on a diet of ciggies and coffee plus other things for quite a time.

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