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PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2006 10:44 am 
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yes, we're headed for the Sunday matinee performance on the 29th, and I promise to report back!

I, too, am stymied by the lack of a casting announcement. It appears from the NBoC Web site, though, that they simply won't make that announcement for the Cleveland tour. Harumph, harumph.

Thought du jour: Is all this recent Kudelka-bashing the result of a change in the public's perception of his work, or has something really changed in his work? Very confusing to me.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2006 1:05 pm 
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Probably more a result of pent up frustration with what seemed a hopeless situation as long as he remained artistic director. With Karen Kain, at least there is a possibility that other choreographic influences may be allowed to gain a foothold. Regrettably, NBoC is heavily invested in Kudelka's productions and so they will certainly be programmed in order for the company to capitalize on that investment. In his new role as resident choreographer, there is almost certainly a quantifiable product that he is expected to produce (e.g., one new ballet per season), but he will have to negotiate with Ms. Kain in order to fund those productions, which opens the door to another level of artistic approval to which he has not been heretofore subjected. I will continue to pick and choose NBoC programs based upon choreographic content. His "Swan Lake" is definitely off my list, and I have no compelling desire to revisit "Cruel World." I understand that "Four Seasons" is one of his better efforts in the extant NBoC repertoire. Please do give us a review of the Cleveland performance!


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 10:44 am 
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Below are the highlights from a story courtesy of the Cleveland Plain Dealer promoting the National presenting a twin bill of the Four Seasons and the Firebird:

Quote:
Kain characterized Kudelka's choreography as "technically and physically hard for the dancers."

"His greatest strength is group work," she said. "He makes the corps de ballet interesting."

Kudelka does not give interviews. But he describes himself in the company's press kit as a "conscientious observer" who gravitates toward themes of love, sex and death...

Although the choreography sticks to the Russian story, designer Santo Loquasto bases his spectacular sets and costumes on ancient Mayan art and architecture. New York Times dance critic Anna Kisselgoff described the dazzling production as " 'The Lion King' meets Serge Diaghilev."

"It's a different look in another context," Kain said. "Some of it is successful. Some of it is not. But it's a wonderful work."

… Last week, the company performed Kudelka's "Swan Lake" at the Kennedy Center in Washington. The dancers then returned to Toronto to rehearse the Cleveland repertory.

"Not every single dancer in the company will come to Cleveland for only three performances," Kain said. "We'll be deciding casting at the last minute, depending on who makes it through a week of 'Swan Lake.' "

Kain will not make it to Cleveland herself because she is attending an international conference of artistic directors in Switzerland. But she hopes to come to town next time - if there is a next time…

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2006 11:03 am 
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Thank you, Michael! That's a loaded set of statements if I ever read some. Sounds like more changes are afoot after this season.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 28, 2006 1:29 am 
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At last I have found time to post my review from seeing the NBoC perform Swan Lake way back on the evening of November 17, 2005! My profuse apologies. Am I allowed to post a review this late?

Ogden Shines above Swan Lake à la James Kudelka!


Quote:
“I must say I had never seen a poorer presentation on the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre. The costumes, décor, and machines did not hide in the least the emptiness of the dances. Not a single balletomane got out of it even five minutes of pleasure.”


You can thank Herman Laroche, music critic and good friend of the ballet’s composer, for the above insight. Yes, the original Swan Lake courtesy of Julius Reisinger in 1877 laid…..the proverbial ugly duckling’s egg! In 1895 Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa breathed choreographic life into the ballet as a tribute to Pyotr Tchaikovsky, who pulled down the princely sum of $500 for the score! Sadly he never saw their version. Historians can’t decide whether he took his own life or died of cholera on November 6th, 1893 at the age of 53. It’s well worth seeing Swan Lake just to experience the musical genius of Pyotr Tchaikovsky. His contribution to the world of ballet will forever know an eternal life.

Swan Lake II was a hit with balletomanes and has for the most part survived 111 years in some version or another. Does Swan Lake improve with time or does it become stale with remake after remake after remake? Of course, without video evidence, a time machine, or very, very old balletomane to interview, no one can answer the above! All this critic can do is give you his opinion of Swan Lake à la James Kudelka.

You should be aware that under ‘choreography’ the souvenir program credits Kudelka and Kudelka alone. For Erik Bruhn’s Swan Lake, the National showed proper respect to its original creators with an additional credit: “after Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.” According to Mr. K:
Quote:
“every classic needs to be rethought with new logic and powerful archetypes to make it moving and relevant for a new generation.”
Translation: Tutus cannot hold up to the toughest critic of all: Time! Desmond Heeley’s tutus would have been 38 years old had Kudelka used them to dress down his swans. Reason #2 ballet companies redo classics: Dance technique becomes more advanced with the passage of time. Reason #3: Without video evidence it’s impossible to recreate the original.

Adding a II to Swan Lake is also a good way to lure fannies into the theatre and make the cash register sing! Many of those fannies were quite restless during Act I as Mr. K tried to interject some testosterone with a pas de octahedron for the boys. Oh hum, excuse me whiles I express my boredom through a loud prolonged yawn. Most disappointing after the ballet began with such promise. Before the official unveiling, woodwinds usher in the familiar romantic theme followed by a crescendo of tension building strings. Cymbals and trumpets warn of an impending storm. The woodwinds return followed by foreboding silence. A full moon rises to reveal the Archangel silhouette of Rothbart à la Christopher Body.

Nothing in the 1st act that was to follow lived up to that powerful image. Swan Lake is the classic black and white escapist ballet. Fans come to escape inside a dream world made of blowing mist, pristine ballerina and dazzling white tutu. Ballet fans come to escape inside the beauty of man’s most beautiful creation: the ballerina!

At least the dance of the slum boys, served to build anticipation for seeing the above. At least Mr. K showed his sense of humour adorning the Queen (Victoria Bertram) and her Lady in Waiting (Lorna Geddes) in headdresses shaped like swollen genitalia. I admit to giggling as memories of the pilot episode from Star Trek (The Cage) surfaced with the Talosians and their over-sized brains! Perhaps this was all an inside Freudian joke poking fun at Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s obsessive worship of his Mother? Or perhaps those Kentucky Derby sized tributes to femininity serve as a warning to our Prince (Guillaume Côté) not to fall in lust at first sight with Odile (the evil Heather Ogden)? It does make one wonder if the sight of Siegfried’s mother might scare away Odette (the good Heather Ogden) for fear of the daughter they may produce? Yikes! By the way, one of the Queen’s knights caught his cape in some scenery making his way down the steps and had to tear himself free.

At least Kudelka tweaked his story some with a more tasteful gangbang of a very saucy wench in the form of the sultry Stephanie Hutchison. At least I knew, having seen this Kudelkaized version many times, things would eventually become more pleasing to the eye. I could see how the Prince would be bored silly with all of the above and accept an invitation from his buddy Benno to go swan hunting. Especially since Mother Victoria Bertram mimed to one and all her son should settle down with a good princess. This is one part of the fairy tale ballet I never got. What woman would fall for a man who likes to shoot swans with a bow and arrow during his leisure time-especially one who is half woman/half swan? Join me for Act II.

Emerging from the cattails of a misty marsh to greet Prince Siegfried and introduce him to the beautiful Odette we have a psychedelic, beaded haired Rothbart (think Woodstock)! Odette is a swan-woman who only assumes human form between midnight and dawn. The spell of the evil sorcerer Rothbart can only be broken by true love and it is love at first sight for the prince. And who can blame him? Heather Ogden as Odette is irresistible in her brilliant white Santo Loquasto tutu and swan feathered headdress. So much so, she could start a Swan Lake fashion trend.

Miss Ogden recovered from a small slip during a pas de trois between the Prince and Rothbart to dance and silent act a performance worthy of Opening Night. Curiously, despite dancing the star role 3 times, Heather Ogden did not dance Opening Night. I thought that honour would be bestowed upon her when the National Ballet of Canada traveled to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to dance Swan Lake (January 17-22) but it was not to be. Veterans Greta Hodgkinson and Jennifer Fournier danced the lead role only twice.

The role of swan-woman was Loquasto tailor-made for this child-woman ballerina. Off stage Heather Ogden is full of girlish innocence looking every bit the part of a National Ballet School student; on stage she magically transforms herself into a seasoned silent actress/dancer. What separates Ogden from other very talented dancers is what Hollywood calls the indefinable ‘it’ factor. If she danced for Paris Opera Ballet I would be writing ‘Je ne sais quoi.’ Fans don’t know what Heather Ogden has but they know she has it! ‘It’…is living her dream dancing music to life giving it everything she has to give!

Cue the violin and cello. It’s time for the luv duet between the Prince and Odette. Ogden plays upon her delicate waif-like beauty to full effect as she dances the story of her fate to the Prince. Arms undulating like the wings of a swan, she bourrées across the enchanted lakeside. The more they dance, the more their relationship strengthens. At first very shy and frightened, Odette now trusts the prince truly loves her and thus will save her from this swan-woman existence.

Swan after swan after swan fills the stage as the Prince and Odette fall into bottomless love at first sight. This Busby Berkley white canon sequence is always quite a spectacle to behold-Especially so from the mezzanine. Sadly, the National is at a disadvantage with their humble stage, medium sized corps, and unremarkable Kudelka choreography. The NBoC’s corps de ballet shined but their appearance lacked the ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ they should have evoked. I felt a little cheated. The way you do after fast food or day at the CNE (amusement park). Same goes for the cygnets’ pas de quatre. It’s little more than a cute little ditty that always draws spontaneous applause but I have yet to see a production in which their synchronized dancing actually makes sense to the story.

Ogden’s performance evoked memories of blond screen siren Tippi Hendren from ‘The Birds’ in the fear she expressed. For Act III, Heather Ogden transforms into sultry blond ambition à la Grace Kelly. Miss Ogden definitely shares the same fresh, alabaster beauty of both Hendren and Kelly, muses for the great director, Alfred Hitchcock. If only I could use the same adjective for James Kudelka. Of course, Odette accepts the Prince’s invitation to dance at the ball.

You say you’re not part of the Prince’s inner circle? Your invite to celebrate the Prince’s 21st Birthday did not arrive in the mail? No problem, I’ll sneak you in. Royal blue and purple colors everyone who is anyone in the court. Lighting up the dance floor we have Golden Globed Murano Glass Chandeliers. The Queen Mother mimes it is time for her son to choose a bride and he certainly has quite a delicious selection of princesses from all over the globe: Hungary (Rebekah Rimsay), Russia (Jillian Vanstone), Spain (Tanya Howard), and Italy (Laura Bolton). Kudelka made an interesting choice cutting the princesses from the traditional 6 to 4, which I will discuss more in detail later.

First to step off her podium is Princess Hungary doing all she can to maintain her dignity- despite being presented as an object of the Prince’s potential desire. She mimed ‘I want to have your baby’ and ‘Will you marry me?’ before her folk dance. Despite dancing with one hand on her hip and one behind her head to perfection, the prince did not want Princess Rebekah Rimsay to make him any Palacsinta for breakfast!

Jillian Vanstone was all business dancing with determination as the icy Russian Princess. Alas, her Romovaya Baba did not warm him up! Tanya Howard, the only Princess to also dance in the corps de ballet, made a big play for the Prince playing with her skirt and ‘Kitri’ castanets. I was shocked the bridal dance contest did not end right then and there but this is fantasy so the prince was not impressed with this Dulcinea’s delicious Peras al Vino Dulce! Teasing the court with provocative leaps and the splits, we have the lovely Laura Bolton. Apparently, her Italian Gelato was not delectable enough to melt our Prince’s heart.

He truly must be in love with Odette. And here she comes, or so he thinks, fashionably late dressed to thrill and kill in a jet-black tutu! Wow! This is not Odette but a mirror image of her in the form of Odile, a creation of Rothbart. He obviously visited a fashion consultant since we last saw him ditching the Woodstock threads for a muscled bellhop look trying his best to look serious despite sporting a pillbox cap. The evil chameleon summons Odile to seduce the Prince with her ‘Tell me Lies, Tell me Sweet Little Lies’ dance. Does it work? Will the Prince succumb to Satin’s Seventh Sin: Lust? Read on…

Odette, the shy sweet swan-woman next door has been replaced by Odile, the not so shy she-devil from the bad side of Swan Lake. Ladies and gentlemen this is your Ballerina Idol! Odile dances with no fear. Arms rippling, she’s all steely flash dancing not just for the prince but also for the knights. Ogden’s pointe shoes burn up the dance floor as the Prince falls under her seductive hypnotic spell. I think we have a winner!

Rothbart whispers instructions to further lure the Prince into Odile’s web of deceit. Odette can only look on in disbelief through the window of the castle as Odile mockingly laughs at her Siegfried. The fool! He has no idea he has fallen for an Odette refurb! She’s a Prince gold-digger who will take him for everything he’s got!

Heather Ogden obviously preferred playing the darker role of evil seductress more so than the frail, helpless swan-woman. She certainly enjoyed herself on stage-Perhaps a little too much. It’s hard to believe the Prince didn’t notice the come-hither personality change. He even dances a pas de trois with her guardian. Several breathtaking grand jetés, bourrées, and 32 fouettés (fondu-pirouette) later, it is all over. The Seduction of Siegfried is complete. He has chosen Odile as his bride. Evil prevails over good and Siegfried’s world comes to an end.

Flashes of white lightning fill the stage. The entire court for the exception of Siegfried and Rothbart are killed off by a flood simulated by the dancers pulling an enormous silk sheet across the stage-Quite a satisfying theatrical experience and also very daring move to pull off. There has been much speculation as to the meaning of Mr. K’s Swan Lake. Perhaps it’s his response to man’s exploitation of planet earth bringing on the revelations in the form of four galloping ballerinas, four princesses instead of six, and 4 acts instead of Erik Bruhn’s 2. One could even make a case for the above with all the recent natural disasters such as the flood in Tunisia and New Orleans.

Onto Act IV: Gone are the brilliant white tutus replaced by gorgeous black tutus. This is where Kudelka runs out of creative juice for his choreography. This act was dominated by arabesque after arabesque. Odette forgives Siegfried for succumbing to the sin of Odilicious lust even though she has been condemned to spend eternity as a swan. The evil Rothbart conjures up yet another storm. There’s a struggle leaving poor Odette to mourn the death of humanity and Siegfried. Yikes! Ballets don’t get any darker than this! Ultimately, the ballet fails because Mr. K’s interpretation resolves around Rothbart and the revelations more so than the love story. In the end, I had no sympathy for the Prince. He got his just deserts.

If Kudelka possessed more imagination he would have dressed down his Swans in Heeley’s tutus and then dressed them up in Loquasto’s tutus for a happy ending. The costume change would have brought everyone in the Hummingbird Centre to their feet! Given that Mr. K’s Swan Lake was about a decaying civilization; would not the time-ravaged tutus of Bruhn’s Swans have been more apropos? He could have staged an epic battle between the black & white swans with the white swans prevailing. The closing emotional melody also delivers for a happy ending. I can only dream…

Despite James Kudelka’s futile attempt to provide more of a role for the boys, his Swan Lake revolves around the ballerina. When most people think about ballet, Swan Lake and the image of a ballerina in tutu comes to mind. When you leave the Hummingbird Centre the foremost images you take home with you will be that of Heather Ogden glowing as Odile and Odette in a black and white tutu! Don’t believe me? Ask Artistic Director Karen Kain. I sat behind her in Row B, Seat 54. Mrs. K clapped most enthusiastically for Heather Ogden and whispered often to her neighbor/friend after most of Ogden’s variations.

Sadly, Prince Guillaume Côté spent most of his time on stage looking indifferent and a tad bored. He should have been given some more steps to dance. Sadly missing from Swan Lake à la James Kudelka is the role of the Court Jester. No comic relief for you! No gravity defying jumps. No fun.

As much as James Kudelka tries to make Swan Lake his own, it still belongs to Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. Think of them as master chefs who whipped up choreography to serve up the ballerina as the main dish of their ballet. James Kudelka is more of a short-order cook who fries ballet to serve up his own choreography. Hence, the conflict between Mr. K and fired ballerina Kimberly Glasco, who Kudelka claimed could only dance for Petipa. According to Miss Glasco, Kudelka fired her because she did not support his $1.7 million Swan Lake. The lawsuit won by Glasco has long been settled (July 20, 2000 for a reported 1 to 2 million dollars) but all of the above will forever be linked to the history of the National Ballet of Canada.

In the end, Swan Lake will always be Swan Lake. You will never erase memories of the original and its original creators. Despite all its faults, it’s a shame this production has never been televised and captured for eternity onto DVD. Ballet is such an ephemeral art. Now all that remains of Heather Ogden dancing the music of Swan Lake to life is memories and of course, this review. Ultimately, all of us live on this blue sphere to create and collect memories. If only I could download Swan Lake from my mind to my DVD player! In the meantime, this balletomane will cling to memories of Heather Ogden’s performance like a dream you don’t want to let go…

Performance of Dancers: 17/20. Costumes, Sets & Lighting: 17/20. Choreography: 13/20. Ballet Magic: 9/15. Story: 5/15. Music: 10/10. Rating: 71/100.

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Last edited by Michael Goldbarth on Mon Jan 30, 2006 9:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 28, 2006 4:12 pm 
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Quote:
Thank you, Michael! That's a loaded set of statements if I ever read some. Sounds like more changes are afoot after this season.


Jane H.


As I posted back in October:

Quote:
If Mr. K. won’t be creating any more new works, I suspect he may be choreographing elsewhere after the National’s move into the Four Seasons Centre.


The handwriting is on the wall and forensic handwriting experts have determined it to be that of Karen Kain! I imagine she will want to imprint her own stamp on the National during her tenure. It appears her top 4 goals are to create new fans, get back to the classics, improve the quality of dance, and provide opportunities to outside choreographers who talk to the media and are willing to do Ballet Talks.

Kudelka has been doing a lot of independent work outside the National this season and appears to have enough work to keep him gainfully employed to choreograph his ballets onto other companies. Hence, I suspect next season will be his last with the NBoC as choreographer in residence. Of course, the door will always be open and he will be contracted by the National from time to time when they present his ballets.

The National will of course give him a big send-off. Perhaps we will be treated to a triple mixed bill of the Four Seasons, the Firebird, and Sin & Tonic.

Click HERE for my review of the Firebird/Four Seasons twin bill.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 8:40 am 
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Elaine Guregian of the Beacon Journal reviews the National’s doubleheader of the Four Seasons and the Firebird.

Quote:
The lighting design by David Finn and projections and scenic effects by Chris Wise offered a minimalist backdrop: horizontal stripes of color in the spring; blazing red for summer; outlines of trees for autumn; icy blue for winter. The turn to summer was breathtaking, not only because of the sudden jolt of hot color but also for the angular, bright lines of Greta Hodgkinson, a striking soloist. One of the gentle surprises of the choreography turned up here, in the sudden jazzy swaying of hips that brought a chuckle from the audience.

Kudelka's contemporary style in The Four Seasons owes something to the crisp abstraction of George Balanchine

The Firebird uses the 1945 version of Stravinsky’s magnificent ballet score, rescored by Henning Brauel for a smaller orchestra. If, like me, you’re used to the heft and nobility that have become standard in interpreting this work, the lighter style of this performance lacked musical impact. Compensating for that, luxurious sets and costumes by Santo Loquasto and lighting by David Finn cosseted this production in gold-leaf splendor.


Most critics/fans leave with the very same impressions. For some reason, Mr. K always shows these 2 works together. It’s similar to the plight for subscribers of the Toronto Maple Leafs. They are forced to also purchase a subscription to the woeful Toronto Raptors! Now both teams are as woeful as Kudelka’s Firebird.

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Last edited by Michael Goldbarth on Sun Jan 29, 2006 9:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 8:52 am 
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For some reason, Mr. K always shows these 2 works together.


For sure, he's fairly fond of the letter "F".

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 Post subject: Kudelka's Cinderella
PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 9:45 am 
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Hey, Michael.

Could you link me to your reviews of Kudelka's Cinderella? It's coming to New York as part of ABT's spring season, and I'm trying to decide whether to buy tickets. Thanks.


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Dear Poohtunia:

I have fully endorsed Mr. K’s Cinderella! Enjoy!

Below is the unedited review!

Kudelka’s Cinderella Extreme Makeover!

Dance Maestro James Kudelka almost choreographed the impossible-camouflaging a Prokofiev musical score far too sardonic for a fairy tale ballet through innovative steps, stunning costumes, eye-opening lighting, and a down to earth set. This production of Cinderella was choreographed with wow and hearty guffaws galore! The ballet still cries out to be scored anew but this version is more than acceptable. This is a Cinderella that will tour Canada-and maybe just maybe the world!

Mr. K’s Creative Spirit must have been soaring during the ballet making process as his Muse magically transformed a previously clichéd Cinderella upside down and inside out! Goodbye henpecked hubby; Hello (flash!) Photo Journalist. Goodbye carriage; Look out for a pumpkin UFO descending from the heavens to whisk Cinderella to the ball! Goodbye horsy; See our prince travel ‘round the world via plane and boat searching for the seraph whose tootsies will slip into that glittering glass slipper! The background lighting simulating whooshing cerulean skies was absolutely breathtaking! Goodbye golden timekeepers; Hello Dancing Pumpkin Heads! Adios dusty old costumes; Go starry-eyed over jazzy art deco inspired duds! Ever present throughout the ballet is James Kudelka paying homage to Ralph Kramden, Archie Bunker, and Martin Crane in the rather rustic form of Cinderella’s antique chair. Despite the well preserved chair and delicious preserves from Cinderella’s garden, this Cinderella IS modernized. One trip to this Kudelkaized Cindertale and you’ll mothball your memories of Ben Stevenson’s and Sir Frederick Ashton’s antique creations right back into the fabled age of once upon a time—where they belong!

The National Ballet of Canada had been without its own Cinderella since 1973 when a fire destroyed most of the costumes. That version, choreographed by then Artistic Director Celia Franca, received mixed reviews in only 13 performances. From those ashes and cobwebbed, dusty history James Kudelka has restored Cinderella to modern times without sacrificing any of its fabled romantic past. The Keno twin brothers from the antique show Find! would be smiling and so will the National’s cash registers: Ka-Ching!

The true genius of James Kudelka is his ability to use every member of his company (from senior character actors to corps de ballet dancers to soloists to principals) and make them ALL shine! Victoria Bertram played the part of a bathtub gin swilling shnockered step mother to such pickled perfection, I was genuinely worried she might be pulled over for drinking and driving home after her spirited show stopping Gloria Swanson/Norma Desmond like performance! NBoC pointe shoe mistress Lorna Geddes glowed as she magically poofed from the cinders of the fireplace to save Cinderella from her stepsister slavery and thus the Prince from his slavery to the upper crust of hoity-toityville. Veteran character actor Hazaros Surmeyan played the part of a celeb photo journalist with too much integrity to be a Paparazzi picture stealer but not too much integrity not to steal a few scenes! Despite his best efforts, he never did get a snapshot of Prince Charming with his Cinderella. It’s impossible not to LOL at out-of-stepsisters Stephanie Hutchinson and Lise-Marie Jourdain going totally gaga as they throw themselves head-over-heels in lust at the handsome Prince Charming (Patrick Lavoie).

As for Heather Ogden’s performance as Cinderella, she danced barefoot, she danced with one pointe shoe, she danced with two pointe shoes, she danced her socks and pointe shoes off! Heather Ogden was a ballerina siren-poetry in motion. Her spirit more entrancing than any old Northern Light; Not even Aurora Borealis could match the steps of this dancing delight! Yes, this is a brand new 150% improved Cinderella! She can cook, she can garden, she can keep house better than Martha Stewart, and of course, this Cinderella can DANCE!

I played hooky from work to see the Thursday matinée performance, and needless to say, I along with the rest of the audience gave this production a standing ‘O’ leaving with a smile a mile wide! It was that good! Now, if only Kudelka could raise the funds to rewrite the score? Perhaps, Cinderella will be scored anew with a gelling of jazz á la Michel Legrand with classical music. One role I would like to see resurrected was that of the court jester, which would provide Philip Lau and Daisuke Ohno a chance to show off their high flying ballet moves. Next go around; don’t be surprised if Cinderella’s out-of-step-sisters also get a Swan like makeover including botox injections and leg wax! Although the lighting kept everyone’s eyes glued to the action on stage, I would love to see Act 2 end by spotlighting the glass slipper in the middle of the stage.

This was a Formula One paced Cinderella with few opportunities for needless interruptions by applause. I always thought it best to show appreciation at the end of an act. The ending was perfect, finding heaven in the comfort of Cinderella’s garden, Prince Charming rests his head in the lap of Cinderella. No doubt, there would be a very long line up to spend eternity in wedlock with the lovely Heather Ogden. Once Kudelka and his dancers work out the kinks with more opportunities to dance this Jazzed up Cinderella, it will get even better! If I haven’t already made myself 150% clear, I highly recommend you step out of once upon a time and see this modern down-to-earth Cinderella!

Dancers: 18/20. Choreography: 18/20. Ballet Magic: 18/20. Costumes, Sets & Lighting: 19/20. Story: 8/10. Music: 7/10. Rating: 88/100.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 12:06 pm 
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For sure, he's fairly fond of the letter "F".


The above was courtesy of Salzberg.

:lol: Very funny. :lol: That could be interpreted many ways. Perhaps that’s why Mr. K doesn’t give interviews? Perhaps he uses the ‘f word’ too much! I imagine he probably used it if he read Michael Goldbarth’s critique of his Swan Lake! At least, I was fair. It was obvious to me the Washington writers were reviewing his work as if the National Ballet of Canada dances on the same level as NYCB, the Royal Ballet or San Francisco Ballet- Hardly fair.

Imagine how ugly their reviews would be if the National Ballet School danced a program at the Kennedy Centre! I gave the ballet a 71 rating, which translates into 3 and half stars out of a possible 5. If I was just reviewing Kudelka’s contribution, the review would be reduced to 2 and a half stars. It appeared that’s how the Washington critics reviewed the ballet.

In Toronto, critics fall into 3 categories: Homers (meaning they are on the NBoC’s payroll in some way), those that hate everything, and those that actually possess a mind of their own and review the ballet with no bias. According to Classical 96 and 103 FM, James Kudelka’s version is
Quote:
“the Best Swan Lake in the world.”
The NBoC is actually using this quote on their website to promote Swan Lake. They have no shame.

By the way, if you’re looking for a visual treat on DVD for Swan Lake, check out Svetlana Zakharova and Roberto Bolle dancing the lead roles at Teatro Alla Scala. This is quite a lavish production with some interesting twists which I shall not reveal for fear of giving away the surprises.

The camera work was better than most but I was still disappointed in the lack of close-ups. Don’t let that stop you from coughing up the bucks for the DVD as it is quite a lavish production. Kind of like Don Q meets Swan Lake. You get your moneys worth! There is also a bonus feature of Rehearsals.

The National released casting for their bonus Swan Lake run from February 17th to the 19th. Oddly, they are promoting this as:
Quote:
‘Give the gift of ballet for Valentine’s Day.’
Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a great idea. However, I disagree with their choice of ballet. “Hey honey, would like to spend an evening watching a very dark, tragic ballet where the world is flooded over and everybody dies for the exception of a swan-woman?”

And just how can you promote it for Valentines Day, when there will be no Swan Lake on Feb. the 14th? I don’t get it. At least, Heather Ogden will finally dance Odette/Odile on Opening Night! :wink:

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2006 9:42 pm 
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Looking into my crystal ball the NBoC’s 2006/2007 season might look like…..

With the NBoC dancing Don Q at the Kennedy Centre Don Q à la Suzanne Farrell after Mr. B appears to be a lock for next season. Suzanne Farrell will attract fans just to hear her speak at the Ballet Talks. I’m not sure if Toronto fans will appreciate this version. Most of us are used to the fun Don Q à la Nicolas Beriozoff. Tanya Howard would be perfect as Kitri. Perhaps Mrs. K will show them both?

It would be logical to show the Four Seasons at the new Four Seasons-Perhaps as a Kudelka Farewell Mixed Triple bill including the Firebird and the debut of Sin & Tonic.

Sleeping Beauty is due to be shown. The National could promote it as the last time they will perform Nureyev’s version. Perhaps Karen Kain will create her own Sleeping Beauty sometime in the distant future.

Elite Syncopations is always a crowd pleaser and would make an attractive ballet for a mixed program with The Leaves are Fading and Tzigane.

I could also envision a mixed bill of A Delicate Battle, La Bayadère Act II and Les Sylphides.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 9:44 am 
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Back from Cleveland and the Four Seasons/Firebird double bill. First of all, I found the entire program to be absorbing and entertaining, the kind of performance that I think will yield lots of food for thought over time. It was absolutely worth the long drive.

It was a fairly full house at the State Theatre, though there were a few more folks recovering from upper respiratory illnesses than I like to see at the theater.

The Four Seasons featured Aleksandar Antonijevic as the lead "Everyman". He grew on me. He was a bit too blank a blank canvas to begin with, but perhaps that was his intent? By the time he got to Winter, I was sorry to see him go. Stacey Minagawa danced lead on Spring. I so admire her technique -- that woman could probably remain balanced en pointe during a 7.8 Richter scale earthquake, but once again she failed to engage me emotionally (we saw her do Sugar Plum Fairy last month). As for Summer, I am officially a member of the Greta Hodgkinson Fan Club now. wow! I actually teared up a little watching the pas with her and Aleksandar in the first part of Summer. The choreography was so complex and rapid-fire -- yet it never overwhelmed the artistry. No matter how fast and precise the dancing, I still felt connected to the dancers and what they were expressing. I think it was honestly the most beautiful and thrilling contemporary pas I have ever seen. Autumn was interesting. There's something about Rebekah Rimsay's upper-body technique that's a bit too "lurchy" for my liking, but she has a strong and intriguing presence. I'll bet there are some parts out there that are spot-on perfect for a dancer like her. Winter, perhaps predictably, got a strong response from the audience with the quartet of older dancers. I have mixed feelings, particular with the two women, Victoria Bertram and Lorna Geddes. Something about the two men, Tomas Schramek and Hazaros Surmeyan, and their dancing felt more natural and unforced. Christopher Body had the role of the "other man" in Winter: he projected a very strong, dramatic presence. His stomping off as the curtain fell was heart breaking.

I know some have said in their reviews that following a couple through the "four seasons" of life might have been more effective, but I honestly liked the clarity and simplicity that following one person provided. Life is a solitary journey, even when and if you find a partner.

As for Firebird, I was very pleasantly surprised, especially having heard from so many people that it wasn't great. To be sure, it's not high art, but it was highly entertaining. I found myself smiling often throughout at the delightfully and subtly humorous details. It all sort of felt like Dr. Seuss on acid -- but then again, the Stravinsky score itself is like Tchaikovsky on acid. I think Kudelka did a very effective job of wedding all the senses by following the lead of this challenging music.

We got Guillaume Cote as Prince Ivan, Jennifer Fournier as the Firebird and Jillian Vanstone as Princess Vasiliva. Cote was superb, a very believable romantic figure and he was able to do the Firebird "catch and release" without it feeling borderline sadistic as it does with some dancers. The entire performance, in fact, had a happy, wacky sexy vibe to it -- Cote's performance helped a lot though I think most of it came from the giddy sensory stimulation (loved the set design, loved the costumes). Fournier didn't rock my world as the Firebird. She bobbled a few steps early on and her decision to do the part with her mouth firmly clenched shut became distracting rather than a seamless part of her characterization. And I know she's supposed to be a non-human character, but the character's decision to reward the prince with loyalty is very human and I would have liked to have had a stronger sense of the bird's feelings. I found myself wondering how Hodgkinson would have been in the part. Vanstone did as well with the princess part as I think she could, though she did seem to be a bit unsure of her partner. I sensed she was watching too often to make sure Cote would be where she needed him with his partnering. But it is kind of the quintessential "dumb blonde" role with Kudelka choosing to amplify the hair-tossing and baby-making hips of "women in heat" with the costuming and choreography. I'll choose to focus on the humor of the princesses rather than the latent hostility toward women. As I said, given these constraints Vanstone did as well as she could in creating a likable romantic heroine.
Last note, the scaled-down NBoC orchestra was in very good form. Fujiko Imajiski's violin solos during The Four Seasons were exquisite, and I don't think the quality or depth of sound suffered at all during Firebird from having the smaller orchestra.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2006 12:36 pm 
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Quote:
The entire performance, in fact, had a happy, wacky sexy vibe to it -- Cote's performance helped a lot though I think most of it came from the giddy sensory stimulation (loved the set design, loved the costumes). Fournier didn't rock my world as the Firebird. She bobbled a few steps early on and her decision to do the part with her mouth firmly clenched shut became distracting rather than a seamless part of her characterization. And I know she's supposed to be a non-human character, but the character's decision to reward the prince with loyalty is very human and I would have liked to have had a stronger sense of the bird's feelings.


I loved the above! Very well written. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you enjoyed BOTH ballets.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 1:38 pm 
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Good news for future out of town performances of Mr. K’s Cinderella! The December edition of DANCE Europe reported that
Quote:
“sales were higher than expected and the performances were enchanting and fresh.”


Jonelle Wilkinson Seitz gave the National's Cinderella a very positive review. The last sentence glows:
Quote:
“Jonathan McPhee conducted, gracefully underscoring this triumph for Boston balletgoers and their brilliant neighbour to the north.”

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