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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2009 2:34 pm 
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I, also, wish that some younger dancers had been given a chance at Romeo and Juliette.

I think James Leja would make a good Romeo.
I am disappointed that Elana Lobsanova is not Juliette, but I suppose that with her dancing in the Bruhn competition it was not possible this year. But the company has many young corps members that would make wonderful Juliettes.

After all, it was in Romeo and Juliette that Guillaume and Heather were first noticed. I think it's high time for a new couple to be given a chance to make their mark.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2009 10:40 pm 
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I wasn’t at all surprised at Mrs. K’s casting choices for R & J-Other than only 2 appearances by H.O. & G.C. They need to pull in the fans with some brand names and who are you going to sit from those casted? I don’t think anyone else is ready and if they were on the male side, why did Mrs. K. sign Jason Reilly and keep Nehemiah Kish for 2008/2009? If the stork didn’t come calling for Tanya Howard, I’m sure she would have received a matinée performance. Just my thoughts…

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 10:38 am 
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I see there is still no casting for the innovative Mixed Program. There could be many reasons:

(a) They’re too busy to post on web.
(b) Casting has not yet been finalized despite the debut being a mere 10 days away.
(c) Casting often isn’t that important for mixed fare.
(d) Perhaps there are no leads to warrant posting casting?

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2009 10:01 pm 
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Casting for the mixed program has finally been released! I liberated this news breaking scoop from HeatherHighlights! Not sure why I cannot find this at the NBoC’s website? What gives? The National is telling me to
Quote:
“Please check back two weeks prior to the production date for casting.”

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 7:53 am 
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Susan Walker talks to Mrs. K about Innovation.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 11:06 am 
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The National finally made casting available on their website! As I suspected, because of the nature of the dances, there are so many involved, you’re bound to see one of your favs and hence casting was not that important.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 01, 2009 8:28 am 
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I found a great story about Jason Reilly returning to Canada.

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“There are, of course, an ocean of details to be worked out, but when it comes to dancing with Hodgkinson, Reilly is already in the groove.”

The two tried each other on for size in the rehearsal hall during an earlier visit Reilly made to Toronto and, according to Reilly, it was magic from the get-go.

“The first time we touched each other in rehearsal, we just clicked,” he reports. “We knew each other somehow. It’s like I’ve always been dancing with her in some way, so it’s cool.”

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:00 am 
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Paula Citron whets your appetite for the mixed program.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2009 12:22 am 
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National Ballet of Canada
March 4, 2008
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
Triple Bill


As spring made its first tentative appearance in Toronto, National Ballet of Canada returned to the Four Seasons Centre stage with a triple bill of world premieres by young Canadian choreographers. It was fortuitous timing, for current financial realities likely rule out programming many new ballets for the foreseeable future. Ranging from classical elegance to modern edginess, the evening's performances revealed that Canada has impressive choreographic talent… even f that talent isn't always put to the best use.

Kicking off the Canadian choreographic fest was Peter Quanz’s aptly named "In Colour". Drawing his inspiration from a book on colour by British film director Derek Jarman, Quanz looked both to colour - and the absence of it - to shape his ballet. A corps elegantly outfitted in metallic gray, and a thick lacy backdrop forms a canvas for a series of solos and pas de deux by vividly attired dancers. Since Quanz’s choreographic portfolio includes commissions for companies such as the Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and the Royal Ballet, it is not surprising his choreography is quite classical, with hints of Petipa. The commissioned score by Russian composer Anton Lubchenko, has echoes of Russian composers from past eras. Lubchenko, at just 23, is clearly an up and coming talent, and his score is one of the few recent commissions for ballet that is danceable, musical and unique.

The soloists first appeared in silence, simply attired in white (briefs for the men, simple tops and bottoms for the women. Later, they returned in deeply hued costumes for a series of finely wrought solos and pas de deux. The dancers were clearly inspired by the chance to take on new choreography, and the dancing was of uniformly high quality. The solo for Bridgett Zehr and Guillame Côté was one of the highlights - smooth, delicate and intimate. Zdenek Konvalina in blue also impressed with his controlled flexibility and enviably pliable feet.

Quanz was particularly effective with the corps de ballet - he moved the dancers through distinct patterns with ease, creating eye-pleasing shapes from the mass of bodies. The corps sections had the appearance of a slightly modern take on the Swan Lake corps or the big ballroom dances in "Sleeping Beauty". And perhaps that's where the problem lay. "In Colour" was elegant, visually pleasing and tidily packaged. But the ballet never seemed to break free and define itself as something new and distinct. It's as if one has seen each of the pieces somewhere else and they had been re-assembled with new transitions. The slow processing of the gray-clad corps – couple by couple each hand in hand - felt eerily like a rehearsal for "Sleeping Beauty" or "Swan Lake".

“In Colour” will no doubt serve well for triple bills, but it would be fascinating to see what he could with Lubchenko as far as either a piece for a very few dancers or a new take on a full length ballet.

A bit surprisingly, to this reviewer, the real eye-catching piece of the evening was Crystal Pite's "Emergence". Pite, though a dancer with the Albert Ballet for a number of years, decided to push the dancers beyond the classical comfort zone. And the result was thoroughly fascinating, unique and stunningly danced. Jay Gower Taylor's sets and Owen Belton's electronic score created a world hovering between reality and fiction, populated by a horde of black clad dancers. The back scrim was dark, with arced lines emerging from all around a hole that serves as a point of emergence. The lines, though simple, gave the piece a bit of structure – they could have been clouds emerging from an explosion, birds arcing away from a central point, or something all together abstract.

The men were in black trousers, the women in simple black, and for the first half, were outfitted in indistinct masks that were reminiscent of the mice from the comic-storybook Maus. There was clear suggestion of themes involving armies and war (Pite cited bees and insects as one of here inspirations)- the sounds of tramping feet and distant artillery-like echoes in the score, the absolutely superb angled lighting by Alan Brodie and Pite's fascinating choreography.

Pite kept the women on pointe, but beyond that she played mostly with a more modern choreographic idiom. Taking ballet dancers into the modern realm can be a spectacular disaster - it looks like ballet dancers doing modern dance - but here the NBoC dancers looked utterly at home. Part of Pite's success was using the plasticity of balletic bodies to create modern shapes, and interweaving more classical bits in with the modern.

Much of the choreography explored the slow fluidity of motion - arcing legs, arms and torsos. Pite was at her best when she worked with large groups of dancers, moving them through and around each other. When the women moved through the regularly scattered thicket of the male corps, every dancer was constantly moving, the movement regular, yet every dancer slightly different so the two groups coalesced and wove through each other without the slightest break in movement or appearance of set choreography.

At another juncture, the men flopped face first down, the arc-like shape of their outstretched bodies creating a living mosaic. The pattern was endlessly intriguing, though visible for only a few moments. At other times, Pite had the dancers chanting out the counts – an unearthly rhythm – the rhythm of both ballet and of marching soldiers.

In perhaps the most moving image of the ballet, and one that most directly suggested the idea of creatures in battle, the female corps lined up parallel to the wings. As the women tonelessly counted out steps, and moved in almost machinelike harmony, six men tried to break their line. Each time the one of the men got close to the line of women, he suddenly arched back as if repelled as if struck by a hail of bullets or an unseen barrier. It was eerily reminiscent of the images of WWI soldiers hurling themselves out of a trench to an almost certain death.

In "Emergence" Pite has created a piece that is unique, questioning, fascinating, and perhaps most important, a perfect fit for NBoC. I hope it finds a home in the permanent repertory.

After the emergence of "Emergence", Sabrina Matthew's "DEXTRIS" , set to Vivaldi's "Dixit Dominus" was an unsatisfying ending the evening. Much has been said about Matthew's talent, but someone should have steered her well away from the 'live choir trap'. The idea of having a live choir accompanying ballet might seem attractive and innovative, but I know of no successes. In fact, the ballet world is littered with choral-balletic disasters such ABT's fascinatingly horrific two part "Carmina Burana" and Peter Martins' bland "Chichester Psalms". Choirs tend to be expensive, difficult to schedule and distracting. Which means that such ballets often can't easily be revived, can't be toured and are often more memorable for the singing than the dancing.

While choral music often works well for ballet, having a large choir onstage s not. Matthew's piece, unfortunately, demonstrated all of the potential pitfalls. She placed the choir in two large metal bleachers that dominated the stage, leaving a relatively shallow area for the dancing. And though the choir was clad in black, the eye was drawn to them, particular during the un-coordinated flashing of white sheets at every page turn. Christopher Dennis' dim lighting also drew the focus upwards as the shadows playing on the choir were often more eye-catching than the dancing.

Had the dancers been more visible, the piece may have had a more of an effect. However, since the dancers were outfitted in drab shades of tan, they didn’t stand out from the rest of the action on stage. The dancing, for the most part, alternated between the five couples and a soloist or two. The couples were intertwined in close partnering of no particular uniqueness - women supported in deep penches, women in splits etc etc.

The end result was that faced with a choir (the excellent Toronto Mendelssohn Choir), soloists frequently at the front of the stage (stage right) and flesh-coloured dancers, it was hard to concentrate on the dance. I remember more about the choir and the soloists than the dance – not a good thing when I came to see the dance. It's the dance, the dance!

Overall, the triple bill has given NBoC one memorable piece, one solid piece that will be a solid addition to the repertoire and one ballet to file away in the "should have know better" file. Not a bad evening, but one some wise direction could have lifted to a much higher level.



As a note, I think NBoC could do well to pay attention to the copy editing and writing in their playbill inserts. The articles on the ballets had several glaring spell-check type errors, and the intro pieces on the ballets seem to stray dangerously into the realm of reviews.

I like to find out about the pieces, I'm going to see and especially about the choreographers, but want to form my own opinions. So phrases like "the grandeur of Matthew's choreography" and "rich triumvirate works" and "has created a ballet of epic proportions" seem a lot more like PR writing that good journalism. Shouldn't it be up to the viewer to decide whether the ballet is epic or the choreography is grand? We shouldn't be told - telling an audience how they should feel is very dangerous ground - it's a good ballet because we told you so.

And it's even stranger when the articles were almost certainly written before the pieces were complete - the dress rehearsals couldn't have been but more than a few days ago. It's generally considered to be a major taboo to review a piece before opening night - so why stray over that line in the playbill? If you need to fill space - how about an interview with a choreographer and/or a dancer's view of the piece or an interview with the lightning designer/costume designer/composer.


Last edited by ksneds on Tue Mar 10, 2009 8:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2009 7:55 am 
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Thanks so much for the detailed review Kate! I’m most impressed you stayed up all morning to finish it off. Bravo! I totally agree with your point about P.R. journalism. It’s more than a little embarrassing. Perhaps it was written with input by the ballet makers?

I found a must read story about Hazaros Surmeyan and the 65 year old young Lorna Geddes!

Quote:
“It was love at first sight,” says Geddes, adding their first date was a movie.

“It’s great being together,” adds Surmeyan, who is less forthcoming with his words than his wife. “It’s very nice … what can I tell you.”

Both show they’ve still got it, with character roles in the March 11–22 run of John Cranko’s classic Romeo and Juliet. Geddes plays Juliet’s nurse, while her husband plays the Duke of Verona.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2009 8:07 am 
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Well, the reviews are starting to pour in for the mixed program. All critics were in agreement that Crystal Pite’s Emergence was the hit of the evening. Susan Walker was obviously impressed; however, her observation in regards to 'neo-Nazis' was completely lost on me.

Quote:
“Jay Gower-Taylor’s set for Pite’s Emergence is a stylized beehive with a tunnel out of which nearly 40 dancers emerge at a run. They wore black masks over their heads to mimic insects. The piece is menacing, dark, sinister and sometimes evokes thoughts of neo-Nazis, but beautiful in the way the dancers constantly create symmetries. The women bourré around on the tips of their point shoes, making a sound that echoes Owen Belton’s score. He amplified and rhythmically massaged actual bees buzzing, termites crunching, cricket and beetle sounds to great effect. At intervals, the dancers whispered a count in a chorus: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.”


John Coulbourn enjoyed Pite’s creation and agreed with the program notes that it evoked images of bees. For me, it evoked images of bat-like creatures.

Quote:
“Next up on the program, choreographer Crystal Pite moves the conversation from etymology to entomology with her oddly-compelling Emergence, which could have as easily been titled The Secret Life of Bees, if that title had not already been usurped for a popular movie.

Working with an original and hauntingly organic taped score by Owen Belton, Pite and designers Jay Gower Taylor and Linda Chow transform the stage into a literal beehive of activity.

Because, of course, the dance is informed and shaped by the behaviour of bees, an unusual inspiration that nonetheless strikes sympathetic resonances and echoes from throughout the animal kingdom, from bats to swallows and beyond.”


Michael Crabb thought Pite to be all style with no substance.

Quote:
“It was Crystal Pite’s Emergence, however, that elicited the most raucous audience excitement and understandably; lots of mass movement for a huge cast, shirtless men in low-cut ruffled pants with winged tattoos on their shoulders, predatory women on pointe who seem to rule whatever odd kingdom is evoked by Jay Gower Taylor’s set and a moody recorded score by Canadian Owen Belton.

Yet, as the dancers performed prodigies of body isolations and contortions on the often too dimly lit stage one wondered what purpose it all served beyond impressive display. The movement vocabulary is hardly novel and the theme, such as it is, seems reminiscent, as if the ghosts of choreographers Maurice Béjart, Jerome Robbins and Kenneth MacMillan were lurking in the wings.”


Nothing in from Paula Citron of the Globe & Mail.

I shall post my review when my Muse inspires me!

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Last edited by Michael Goldbarth on Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2009 2:52 pm 
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At long last the Globe & Mail has released Paula Citron’s review webFREE!

Quote:
“As for the striving of the diverse choreographers here, the ballet’s big gamble? Innovation is an exciting program with gorgeous production values — a triumph of Canadian choreography.”

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 07, 2009 3:36 pm 
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Host Michael Crabb and ballet historian/critic Clement Crisp warmed up Early Birds with an invigorating Ballet Talk for the Thursday March 5th performance of Innovation. According to M.C. the National boasts a
Quote:
“kick-ass orchestra”
and mixed programs usually have a safe, pleasing opening, a dangerous often not audience pleasing middle, and a show stopping finale. In the spirit of Clement Crisp’s comments that there is no right or wrong critique when it comes to a ballet connoisseur’s opinion, I’m going to write against the grain and proclaim that blonde bombshell Crystal Pite’s Emergence was the audience hit of the evening and most definitely should have been given the coveted finale position!

In Colour evoked memories of the ballet ‘Jewels’ in both movement and costume with a much more serious most melancholy tone. The score by Anton Lubchenko echoed far too much of Prokofiev’s Cinderella, which weighed down the bargain basement $ store revival of Marius Petipa variations courtesy of Peter Quanz. This ballet connoisseur possesses no idea what it was about, would be very surprised to see it return, and hence, will not waste any more prose on it.

The middle of the mixed program will most definitely re-emerge at some point in the very near future. Emergence elicited the most applause of the trio and also inspired loads of balletomane buzz between sips of wine during the intermission. From start to finish, Crystal Pite dilated and glued this balletomane’s orbs into her underworld, which was a little too dark at times (more light please)! A naked bat like creature appears to be hatched à la an alien emerging from its sea-pod à la ‘The Body Snatchers.’ Every moment thereafter you forget you’re in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts as these wicked bat-men and bat-women emerge from their cave to go about their routine chanting 1,2,3,4,5,6, and then finally 7,8,9,10,11,12…reminiscent of Leslie Feist’s impossible-to-get-out-of-my-head hit tune! For some reason, I felt strangely attracted to these hedonistic bat-women dressed skintight for sin-Evil is good when you look that good! Antonella Martinelli was especially HO double T!!

Pite exhibits a magnificent mind’s eye for theatrical tricks when the bat-men lay flat on the floor giving the impression of sticking to the ceiling of their cave from my view in Ring 3 of the mezzanine. These bat creatures appear to be blind in the early stages of their existence before being given the gift of sight and dance. As I replayed the ballet in my mind on the way home, I believed this ballerina bat colony to be somehow necessary to our human existence-In the same way mammal bats are thought of as evil even though they perform the very necessary task of ridding valuable farmland from millions of pests.

Though ‘Emergence’ might be more at home on the stage of The Princess of Wales Theatre, I loved absolutely everything about this bat-ballet from the mysterious music by Owen Belton; to the dark set design by Jay Gower Taylor; to the Halloween-esque costumes by Linda Chow; and, of course, I adored the daring muscular dance steps that emerged from the rosé champagne imagination of Crystal Pite who obviously has very little difficulty summoning and/or uncorking her Muse! BRAVO!

Gazing into my crystal ball, I see Crystal Pite as a future choreographer in residence for the National Ballet of Canada. Dance creativity such as hers must be given more opportunities to shine. It is so unfair that classical ballet, or in this case, modern-dance bat-ballet is such an ephemeral art. This mind’s eye inspiration deserves to be preserved for eternity onto DVD. You will see Emergence performed by the NBoC again-Perhaps as early as this June for the Mad Hot Ballet Gala or as part of a Halloween Masked Ball.

Onto the dull but pleasing to the eye and ear finale: Dextris. The music of Antonio Vivaldi transported me back in time to a Viennese royal court where the nouveau riche would surface to enjoy choir music accompanied by romantic dance. The singing was glorious and the dance, especially by Heather Ogden, was lovely. Unfortunately, the choir was very visible on the stage standing atop ghastly looking pigskin bleachers! It may have worked had they covered the bleachers to better blend in with the scenery and made smarter costume ‘colour’ choices for both dancers and singers. This was most disappointing for those looking forward to seeing round III of Sabrina Matthews at the 4 Seasons. Despite the mixed reviews, I recommend you catch this mixed fare-If only to see the middle! :wink:

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Last edited by Michael Goldbarth on Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:13 am, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 7:55 am 
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According to Samantha Mehra of the National’s Backstage Blog, Emergence moves around the theme of bees. I’ve read this in other reviews but I just don’t see it. They sure don’t look or dance like bees. The bees in my garden are friendly and happy. If these dancers were bees, they were not in a good mood! So, show me the honey! :lol:

Crystal Pite also writes about the theme of bees. Question: How come I didn’t hear any buzzing :?: How come I didn’t see any flowers :?: Where was the pollinating :?:

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 08, 2009 12:16 pm 
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Quote:
Before the world premiere of three new dance works by young Canadian choreographers, there was an interesting talk in the beautiful glass atrium with 2 old white guys (I didn't catch the first few minutes so I missed their names) and they were big advocates for pushing new artists and giving guidance and chances to new young talent. Loved when the guy that looked like a cross between Michael Caine and Jim Broadbent, and also spoke with a stuffy English accent, started talking intellectually about his love for Hip Hop and how it started from an internal soul to express themselves through dance. There was something amusing about watching a stuff looking old white British man speak so eloquently about being inspired by Hip Hop.


I just couldn’t resist sharing the above from the Tapeworthy Blog I provided a link for in my review because it included some beautiful pictures of Emergence. I LMAO reading the above! P.S. – The 2 old white guys are Michael Crabb and Clement Crisp! Perhaps the National should post their names somewhere for the Ballet Talk!!

I’m looking forward to reading other posts about the mixed fare. I shouldn’t be the only poster to make a fool of themselves writing about bats when the ballet was apparently about bees... :roll:

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