CriticalDance Forum

National Ballet of Canada - Spring 2011
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Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Tue Mar 22, 2011 6:56 am ]
Post subject:  National Ballet of Canada - Spring 2011

Well, it is time to close down NBoC Winter to make way for Spring….and what better article to post than a story to whet your appetite for Alexei Ratmansky’s Russian Seasons to debut tomorrow.

The ballet is for 12 dancers, and is set to a score of the same name composed by Leonid Desyatnikov in 2000. I just love the music, which is for soprano, violin and string orchestra. The 12 musical sections follow the 12 months of the year. For each section of music, I’ve created a vignette that is a snapshot from life. I’m trying to portray people who are warm and human. I want the audience to be inside their stories.

Author:  ksneds [ Tue Mar 22, 2011 3:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of Canada - Spring 2011

NBoC has posted the pdf of the program insert for this week's performances online.

Côté was originally supposed to dance the lead in T&V, but iron-man Stancyzk is taking over those performances, as per the more recently updated online casting. I also noticed for the first time that Dylan Tedaldi, whose been in the corps for less than a year, is making his debut in the lead in T&V. Talk about a trial by fire!! Muchos merde to him!

Again, I wish the NBoC powers at be could find a way to print the program casting sheet at a later date. It's so silly to go to all the effort to have an stapled-in insert when it's never accurate, and the casting has long since been changed online. Plus, pre-curtain casting change announcements give me the heebie-jeebies because for any other company I've been to, they only happen when there's been a real last minute emergency or injury.

Author:  ksneds [ Tue Mar 22, 2011 3:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of Canada - Spring 2011

Casting as of March 22:

Russian Seasons
Greta Hodgkinson, Heather Ogden, Xiao Nan Yu
Elena Lobsanova, Jenna Savella, Jillian Vanstone

Guillaume Côté
Aleksandar Antonijevic, Zdenek Konvalina, McGee Maddox, Christopher Stalzer, Robert Stephen
(March 23, 25, 26 at 7:30 pm)

Chelsy Meiss, Sonia Rodriguez, Bridgett Zehr
Jordana Daumec, Tanya Howard, Lise-Marie Jourdain

Piotr Stanczyk
Ryan Booth, Naoya Ebe, Jonathan Renna, Dylan Tedaldi, Brett van Sickle
(March 24 at 7:30 pm/March 26, 27 at 2:00 pm)

Zdenek Konvalina (March 23, 26 at 7:30 pm)
Aleksandar Antonijevic (March 24 at 7:30pm/March 26 at 2:00 pm)
Guillaume Côté (Mar 25 at 7:30 pm/March 27 at 2:00 pm)

Sonia Rodriguez (Mar 23, 26 at 7:30 pm)
Greta Hodgkinson (March 24 at 7:30pm/March 26 at 2:00 pm)
Xiao Nan Yu (Mar 25 at 7:30 pm/March 27 at 2:00 pm)

Elena Lobsanova* (March 23, 26 at 7:30 pm)
Rebekah Rimsay (March 24 at 7:30pm/March 26 at 2:00 pm)
Heather Ogden (Mar 25 at 7:30 pm/March 27 at 2:00 pm)

Jillian Vanstone (March 23, 26 at 7:30 pm)
Bridgett Zehr (Mar 24, 25 at 7:30 pm/March 26, 27 at 2:00 pm)

Theme and Variations
Heather Ogden and Piotr Stanczyk (March 23 at 7:30 pm/March 27 at 2:00 pm)
Jillian Vanstone* and Dylan Tedaldi* (March 24 at 7:30 pm/March 26 at 2:00 pm)
Elena Lobsanova* and Piotr Stanczyk (March 25, 26 at 7:30 pm)

* Debuts
All casting subject to change

Author:  ksneds [ Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of Canada - Spring 2011

Well, we got one of the Russian Seasons - Winter!!!

Will report more tomorrow, but drained from a 3 hr drive into Toronto in horrible snow conditions and having an accident right in front of us on the way out. Yeesh.

The bad news continues.. Zdenek Konvalina is injured :( He did not dance in either of his scheduled pieces. Cue iron-man 2 award for Aleksandar Antonijevic.

The good news is that Russian Seasons (all four of them) is brilliant, and the company looks great in T & V! Couldn't put my finger on it, but though Antonijevic is a good Apollo, something just didn't totally click. The one big goof was a total miss on the sunburst position.

Author:  mom2 [ Thu Mar 24, 2011 6:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of Canada - Spring 2011

Sorry to hear about the drive, Kate!!!

Wow on the casting for Russian seasons - a first year corps member (Dylan Tedaldi) in a lead role! Holy catfish!

Author:  ksneds [ Thu Mar 24, 2011 8:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of Canada - Spring 2011

Tedaldi is in Russian Seasons and T&V! One wonders if he won't be spending much time in the corps...

If anyone else attended last night, I'd be grateful for help with figuring out some of the casting in Russian Seasons. The program lists the dancers by the 12 sections, not by the colour of their costumes, which is what sticks out in my snow-addled brain :o) I'm guessing that it was Van Sickle in the blue (subbing for Konvalina).

In Russian Seasons, Alexei Ratmansky reveals a unique, intensely musical choreographic voice. I had not seen any of his work since 'Anna Karenina', which was, I believe, his first full length ballet, and it was fascinating to see him move from a ballet dictated by story to one that flits through emotions with a wisp of a story. As with Anna Karenina, Ratmansky has selected a score by a Russian composer ....

(will finish later :) )

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Mar 24, 2011 3:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of Canada - Spring 2011

Paula Citron reviews the opening night of the Balanchine/Ratmansky mixed bill in The Globe and Mail.

Globe and Mail

Author:  Nikiya [ Thu Mar 24, 2011 8:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of Canada - Spring 2011

Kate -- yes that was Brett in the blue opposite Heather.

Author:  ksneds [ Fri Mar 25, 2011 12:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of Canada - Spring 2011

Updated casting:

Zdenek Konvalina is not performing at all in Russian Seasons, but is still scheduled to perform in tomorrow's Apollo.

Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Sat Mar 26, 2011 10:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of Canada - Spring 2011

I switched my regular date due to scheduling conflicts to see the Opening Night performance of the mixed fare. I was pleased with the bottom (Apollo) and top (Theme & Variations) but disappointed with the middle of my balletic sandwich (Russian Seasons). For a moment I thought an escaped convict had invaded the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts but alas it was just Guillaume Côté dressed down in an orange jumpsuit. The multi-coloured jumpsuits adorned with bellhop caps did not work for moi-Nor did the soprano opera singing, Coplan-esque score along with the distant echoes of Martha Graham movement.

Sure there were some cute moments of humour on stage along with some creative choreography but overall the whole thing just did not come together. Interestingly, James Kudelka was in attendance-Probably to see how this compares to his Four Seasons. At least with the 4 Seasons you know what’s going on on stage and don’t need a program to tell you. There certainly is more of an emotional impact in Mr. K’s work. I was trying my best to get into it but that singing brought the entire ballet to a stop for me.

It had been a while since I attended an Opening Night. This one was quite subdued. No doubt I will be in the minority here, as another glowing review has flowed in-This time from the Toronto Sun. Pondering a future of more Alexei Ratmansky and the prospect of his R & J, I say: BRING BACK JAMES KUDELKA! Did I just write that? Egad, what is the ballet world coming to in Toronto :?: :shock: If I win the lotto tonight, I am moving to Europe.

From an awakening spring to a winter’s lingering and frozen death, this thrilling explosion of colour and skill — at times, brooding and threatening, at others whimsical and silly, but always passionate through and through — represents a steppe by steppe celebration of the shifting of the Russian seasons.

All this critical glowing ballet speak about the apparent 2nd coming of Mr. B reminds me of art critics who hail a piece of modern artwork that looks like something a 5 year old could whip up in 10 minutes. :wink:

Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Sat Mar 26, 2011 3:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of Canada - Spring 2011

The Post and Star weigh in on the mixed program. As far as the Russian Seasons go, we obviously saw an entirely different ballet.

Author:  ksneds [ Sat Mar 26, 2011 5:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of Canada - Spring 2011

As a note, thanks to the 3-hour endurance drive into Toronto, my mind was not as sharp as could have been, particularly when it came to matching dancers and colors in Russian Seasons. If anyone can help me with the other dancer-color combinations or sees a mistake in my review, please feel free to post a correction!

National Ballet of Canada
‘Apollo’, ‘Russian Seasons’, ‘Theme and Variations’
March 23, 2011
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts

Spring may have taken a great leap backwards on this snowy late March evening, but it was a fantastic leap forward for the National Ballet of Canada. The company premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s ‘Russian Seasons’ was the centerpiece of triple bill that spanned nearly 80 years of ballet history. Opening the evening was ‘Apollo’, one of George Balanchine’s earliest ballets, and the evening ended with the regal ‘Theme and Variations’, a showcase of Balanchine’s choreographic talents. Not only did the program showcase some of the oldest and newest choreography in the National Ballet of Canada’s repertoire, but also the company’s most and least senior dancers.

With Zdenek Konvalina out at short notice due to injury, Aleksandar Antonijevic, the company’s most senior male principal, stepped into the role of Apollo a day earlier than expected. Antonijevic’s years of experience in Apollo showed, with a refined performance and nary a hitch in the partnering with his three muses, Sonia Rodriguez, Elena Lobsanova and Jillian Vanstone. His performance was reminiscent of that of Peter Boal, another Apollo who was of a slighter build. Lobsanova was a quicksilver Polyhymnia, but it was Rodriguez’s regal, rock-solid Terpsichore who stole the show. Rodriguez is dancer of rare refinement, and her body moves through Balanchine’s angular choreography with supreme confidence. As a whole, however, the performance lacked something, a cohesive connection between all dancers perhaps. Yet, given the last minute cast change, finding the missing link is surely just a matter of performance time.
‘Russian Seasons’ is a vivid, dynamic and fascinating ballet that reveals Alexei Ratmansky’s unique, intensely musical choreographic voice. This is the first of his work I had seen since 'Anna Karenina' in 2004, and it is clear that he has seamlessly made the transition from ballet dictated by story to ballet that has everything but a literal story. As with Anna Karenina, Ratmansky selected music by a Russian composer, this time a 12-movement score by Leonid Desyatnikov complete with violin solos (Stephen Sitarski) and vocal music (Susana Poretsky).
Ratmansky takes the 12 musical movements and 12 dancers and creates a series of 12 vignettes that explore the seasons through emotion and color. Galina Solovyeva’s deeply-hued, simply cut costumes – square-necked dresses on the women and tunic and pants (less flattering) on the men – provide another layer of context to the ballet. In its structure and use of color to define character, the piece is reminiscent of Jerome Robbins’ masterpiece, “Dances at a Gathering”. However Ratmansky’s never copies, instead taking the original concept and working with to create a fresh, fascinating ballet.
The ballet needs repeated viewings to tease out all the wonderful details, but Ratmansky’s brilliance stands out on several accounts. Not only does he have a wonderful ability to blends elements of Russian folkdance with classical ballet, but he uses the colors of the costumes to add a layer of meaning to the ballet. For instance, at one point, the couple in red dance in front of the three couples in blue, purple and green. The latter colors blend together to create a moody background upon which the lead couple stands out. Mark Stanley’s lighting also subtly shifts to allow the plain backdrop to compliment the costume colors onstage. As I saw years ago in ‘Anna Karenina’, Ratmansky also is talented at both layering his dance and creating connections. At various points in “Russian Seasons” there might be couple dancing a pas de deux in front, with a row of men, then a row of women behind. Each grouping has a choreographic motif, and the ‘corps’ rows create what is almost a moving backdrop. The vignettes are also cleverly joined, with the action of each vignette somehow subtly sparking off the next.
The choreography itself is tinged with Russian folkdance motifs, best illustrated in the superb dancing of Guillaume Côté. As the man in orange, a kinetic, yet mature main male figure, Côté soared across the stage, stopping on dime in the folk-dance-esque slides. Equally as impressive were his crisp beats and easy turns. Ratmansky also is not afraid to sprinkle some humor into the proceedings, particularly in the springy, youthful section for the green-clad Elena Lobsanova. This was a perfect role for Lobsanova, who had ample opportunity to show off her crisp, ebullient dancing. Heather Ogden also stood out as a slightly more mature, slightly sensual and confident female figure, and Brett Van Sickle, stepping in for Konvalina, also was a stand out. I first saw Van Sickle when he started his career with ABT, and over the last couple of years, he seems to have really come into his own.
While the above-mentioned performances were memorable, what really struck me was what a perfect match “Russian Seasons” is for the National Ballet of Canada. It doesn’t require a “cast of thousands”, but still provides roles that can be interpreted with subtly different shades by dancers with a wide variety of talents. It also is a perfect ballet to give young dancers a chance at major roles without the stress of carrying an entire ballet. The current casts are an example of this, with dancers ranging from the veterans like Antonijevic and Greta Hodgkinson, to young dancers like Naoya Ebe and Dylan Tedaldi.
The evening concluded with Balanchine’s regal “Theme and Variations”, a ballet that satisfies every balletic stereotype without making any choreographic sacrifices. There are tutus and tiaras, white tights and handsome cavaliers, and of course, Tchaikovsky and Balanchine. The NBoC costumes, by Santo Loquasto, are some of most elegant (a far cry from ABT’s pinky things and the Royal Ballet’s brown velvet-be-wigged monstrosities), and the dancing lived up to the costumes. Heather Ogden was every little girl’s dream princess, glittering in her tiara, and as regal as they come, processing through the tricky choreography without the slightest ruffle. Piotr Stanczyk, as always, was a solid partner, though his solos suggested just the slightest bit of tiredness from his iron-man schedule of the last two-week which included three Don Q’s and two Onegins.
The excellent NBoC Orchestra was conducted by the two Davids, Briskin for the first two pieces, LaMarche for the last. Robert Thomson provided the lighting for the two Balanchine ballets.

Author:  Michael Goldbarth [ Sat Mar 26, 2011 5:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of Canada - Spring 2011

Thanks to Kate for the above detailed review. If only I could share your enthusiasm for the Russian Seasons...

According to Dana Glassman, the Russian Seasons is choreographed to represent all 12 months. I invite anybody to post their thoughts if they saw all 12 months or even the 4 seasons? I do agree there was some clever choreography but that is it.

Russian Seasons is more than just clever choreography. Each of the 12 musical sections represent the months in a year and reveal the joy, love and sadness that inevitably take place within that time frame. Violin soloist Stephen Sitarski adds verve to the more playful moments and soprano Susana Poretsky sends chills down your spine during the sorrowful ones.

At least Miss Glassman and I agree on the audience response.

Surprisingly, the audience greeted this entire triple bill, including the Canadian premiere of Russian Seasons, with polite but hardly hearty applause. (Could the sudden blast of winter weather have zapped people's energy?)

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Mar 26, 2011 6:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of Canada - Spring 2011

Paula Citron's review in The Globe and Mail (see posting with link, above) expends a full paragraph on identifying the opening night cast members, pairings and colors.

Author:  BDW [ Sun Mar 27, 2011 9:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: National Ballet of Canada - Spring 2011

Michael, which cast did you see for Russian Seasons? I saw the program last night with the opening-night cast (although some of the the roles/colours were different from those reported here) and loved it. A friend saw the second cast and found something to be off, so maybe that's part of it? While I agree it doesn't have the same emotional imapct as Kudelka's Four Seasons on the surface, I think that's because it's not telling one single story like Four Seasons. To me, that's not a problem -- I don't mind working through the added complexity.

My revelation last night was Elena Lobsanova, who danced the purple woman in Russian Seasons and of course the lead in Theme & Variations. I've always liked her well enough, but she -- like Kate says of Van Sickle (who cuts quite the princely figure) -- is really coming into her own. I found her port de bras to be especially lovely. Carrying not an ounce of tension, she always had her shoulders down and chest open, creating generous and flowing lines while her legs and feet moved quickly and cleanly. Impressive.

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