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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2010 12:00 am 
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Just a few comments (long ballet, longer drive home in the fog)...

This Cinderella has flashes of brilliance, but it's another example of Kudelka losing the story along the way. The step sisters in particular, and the stepmother - a mix of EastEnder's Peggy Mitchell and Bend it Like Beckham's Paula Paxton - are brilliantly conceived and acted, but the without a clear impetus for the ball nor truly stark revelation of Cinderella's downtrodden position, Act 1 doesn't set the scene well for Act 2.

Guillaume Cote and Sonia Rodriguez couldn't be better to suited to the roles or better matched; if only Kudelka would give them (and the rest of the cast) more than brief stretches of dancing to match their abilities. Kudelka choreographs best for large groups, the intricate, weaving steps for the pumpkin-head men among the most effective. It's where the magic of ballet and fairytale best blend into one. The sweeping ballroom choreography also highlights Cote's ability to blend steps together into natural dance phrases. He twists from a downward grasping motion fluidly up into an attitude derriere, creating one unbroken motion out of many, difficult steps.

If only the prince's tail-coat costume had not blended in so well with the other male dancers and the backdrop - unless he's in disguise, a prince .... or other leading character should stand out onstage, as should the leading lady. Equally, Rodriguez had to make Cinderella stand out with the power of her dancing - something she accomplished and then some - because her ballgown was hardly a fairy tale creations. If her fairy godmother could send her to the ball in a flying pumpkin (a very uniquely cool form of transport!), she could surely have whipped up more of a dress!

The underlying issue, perhaps, is the vagueness of the setting. A timeframe - 30s? 40s? 50s? - is hinted at, but the ballet never seems to find a time or established setting. So we keep wondering where we are, rather than focusing on what is happening. Some of the ballroom dresses had a delightful 40s or 50s glitter to them, but simply draped skirts didn't capture the ebb and flow of Prokofiev's grand waltz, and left the stage feeling a bit empty at times. Great costumes should enhance the dancers and the dancing, and the NBoC dancers were left bare on this account.

That said, the dancing - save the usual occasional first night nervous bobbles - was the high quality we've come to expect from NBoC. We were treated to first class bumbling stepsisters with foibles and mannerisms that were carried throughout the ballet. The strengths of the choreography for these characters illustrates how well Kudelka can meld acting, dancing and character when he is inspired.

When happily ever after happens, the ballet soars in a spectacular final pas de deux. With Rodriguez and Cote at their finest and Kudelka working with the music instead of against it, it's pure ballet heaven. It's love and joy expressed through sweeping choreography crowned with high attitude derriere lifts. We see Cote show off his brilliant turns, Rodriguez her ability to layer her dancing with an natural, un-fussy intricacy. Together they go beyond the steps to create an emotion. There are few ways better to end a ballet.

(Note to NBoC... if you need some extra $$$, I think more than a few women out there would shell out some dough to purchase a limited edition of Cinderella's Act 3 dress. The ballroom dress may have been a dud, but her silky, subtly coloured finale dress is totally chic!)

I look forward to the triple bill and the coming full lengths in 2011 when we can see the quality of the dancing matched by the quality of the choreography.


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2010 8:44 am 
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Hi Michael! Thanks for the link. :)


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2010 3:13 pm 
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Paula Citron reviews "Cinderella" in the Globe and Mail.

Globe and Mail


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Sat Nov 13, 2010 8:10 am 
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The Toronto Sun gives Cinderella 5 stars.

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And here too, it seems Kudelka created a perfect vehicle, for this is a work that shows the entire company to its best advantage, filled with the magic of glorious music (in this case, a score from Russian master Serge Prokofiev served up with polish by the NBOC Orchestra, under the baton of David Briskin), breathtaking sets and costumes (take a bow, David Boechler, and share it with lighting designer Christopher Dennis) and the kind of dazzling, demanding footwork that marks all of Kudelka’s dance creations.

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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Sat Nov 13, 2010 11:49 am 
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Here is my condensed milk review of the Cinderella I attended last night. The highlight for moi was the Ballet Talk hosted by former Principal dancer, Jennifer Fournier-Despite sprinkling a few too many “you knows” throughout her speech. I was going to ask her how she made it up the steep 4 Seasons stairs in her très chic and very HOT stilettos but thought better with all the kiddies there and fear of her blushing several shades of red...never mind myself! Anyway, she looked good....real good.

What impressed me most was her passion for ballet, humour, and insider view of what goes on behind the scenes. Her wit was dry as a martini, as she revealed how Mr. K asked her to become an ugly stepsister...not exactly what every ballerina dreams to be! J.F. has gone back to school to study history among other things and no doubt will assume a more prominent role with the National or another arts organization in the future.

As for Cinderella, I’ve seen the production many times before and yet I still see new aspects to the ballet. For this viewing I appreciated the creatures of the garden more along with all the various fashion footwear during the ‘Around the World’ scene. Sonia Rodriguez was very lovely as Cinderella and Tanya Howard was almost too lovely as one of the ugly stepsisters. The dancer who absolutely stole the show was Rebekah Rimsay, in her 20th year with the National, as ‘the bespectacled other’ ugly stepsister! She was so bad; she was good! R.R. gives new meaning to the adjective, nerdy! My kudos to the entire company for not breaking down on stage every time Rebekah danced...in tears of laughter! BRAVO!

Cinderella is a must see and Kudelka’s best ballet. My only real criticism is the music, especially in Act 1, which was obviously commissioned to Sergei Prokofiev, to be performed for a traditional fairy tale rendition. It is far too depressing in the opening act. Below is my review when the ballet premiered.

Quote:
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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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Sat Nov 13, 2010 2:49 pm 
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I don't know if anyone else noticed this...

Guillaume Cote is now (as of this season) listed as a guest artist in residence... not a regular principal dancer. I suspect this means we'll see less of him this coming year than in seasons past. This change in status hardly comes as a surprise, as Cote's always spent a fair amount of time abroad, particularly at La Scala. I presume that his intended commitments at other companies interfered enough with NBoC's 2020-2011 rehearsals & performances that a full-time principal contract was not feasible, or that Cote wanted more flexibility to take on outside work.

It will be a shame if we see less of Cote because I've always worried that the intense repertory combined with a relatively small company puts a heavy burden on the male principals and first soloists. And though it now seems clear why Jelinek was hired, his arrival still does completely shore up the top male ranks.

Antonijevic is brilliant in his niche, but certainly limited by the years of wear on his body (he must be not too far from 40). Stanczyk is no slouch, but his dark (but good) looks and stockier physique perhaps limit his range in the repertory. Which leaves Konvalina and Jelinek for the more princely, Apollonian roles. And I think only Cote and Jelinek are under 30. So there will be need for some fresh blood before long... and there is some great talent coming up. But I'd hate to see the next generation rushed ... or delayed because the company has to spend money on external hires to fill roles.

I see Kirano as the prime candidate for promotion, but I'm not sure of his height - is he tall enough to comfortably partner the taller principal ladies? And can anyone comment on why Lavigne and Lavoie seem to have topped out at First Soloist? They certainly seem to very ably take on a lot of roles. Further down, I have been very impressed with Noah Long, McGee Maddox and Robert Stephen.


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:07 pm 
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Backing up to a preview from The Globe's Paula Citron, included is a photo gallery of artists who are performing their roles for the first time in "Cinderella."

The Globe and Mail


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Sat Nov 13, 2010 5:40 pm 
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I saw the matinee today (Saturday, November 13). This show was a delight as always! I just love it. I loved less the fact that there were two fidgety, unaccompanied children sitting in the box beside us. I understand that with the rush seats it's difficult to get seats together (have no idea where the parents were), but children under 10 should always be with a parent/guardian who can keep them quiet. We did have to shush them ourselves a couple of times, and it is obviously disruptive and breaks the magic spell of the ballet. On one hand it's lovely to see children enjoying ballet, but when said children are kicking and whispering and whatnot as they get restless near the end of each act, it's less lovely.

Heather Ogden was a masterful and beautiful Cinderella as ever. Patrick Lavoie was appropriately dashing as her Prince, and his dancing was very good, although not great. And perhaps it's just the the Prince doesn't have a lot of showy moments? His partnering was excellent, though. I just remember being more impressed by Nehemiah Kish's Prince a few years ago -- although to be fair to Patrick, Nehemiah is my favourite male dancer and I'd be happy watching him do barre exercises.

Krista Dowson as the stepsister, and Tiffany Mosher as the other sister, were fantastic. Excellent comedic timing (especially Tiffany) and the dancing was superb. They were a real highlight for me and my friend.

Kate, that's interesting about Guillaume. I didn't notice, so thanks for mentioning that. It's a shame, although understandable and unsurprising. I just hope he does stay around for the foreseeable future, even on a scaled-back basis. Of course, being married to Heather certainly should keep him connected to Toronto and the NBoC. :)


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Sat Nov 13, 2010 5:51 pm 
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Good eye, Kate! I did not notice. Warning: The * asterisk in any contract, application, fee schedule, document, etc. etc. etc....usually signifies impending bad news! I’m sure many NBoC fans have been dreading this for over a year when rumours began to circulate. Kate made some valid comments that I cannot expand on. The only one who can answer the future of Guillaume Côté is Guillaume Côté or...Karen Kain. I suspect if Guillaume Côté departs for more lucrative stages then Heather Côté may also be departing-Assuming they find regular employment together at the same company. These would be devastating loses to the National having invested a lot of time and effort developing both outstanding talents.

Eventually Côté would become sick of travelling to and fro to Europe with the times changes. From personal experience, it always takes me a day or two to adjust to the new time zone. One hopes we can keep him as a guest artist for the remainder of his career, as I’m sure he would have a future as a choreographer or musician or coach or maybe even as AD.

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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Sat Nov 13, 2010 5:58 pm 
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Quote:
I loved less the fact that there were two fidgety, unaccompanied children sitting in the box beside us. I understand that with the rush seats it's difficult to get seats together (have no idea where the parents were), but children under 10 should always be with a parent/guardian who can keep them quiet. We did have to shush them ourselves a couple of times, and it is obviously disruptive and breaks the magic spell of the ballet. On one hand it's lovely to see children enjoying ballet, but when said children are kicking and whispering and whatnot as they get restless near the end of each act, it's less lovely.


I agree 150% with the above! :!:

Quote:
And perhaps it's just the the Prince doesn't have a lot of showy moments?


Also agree 150% with the above. In fact, the Prince does not make an appearance until Act II! Mr. K’s Cinderella was choreographed to show off the whole company.

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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Sat Nov 13, 2010 6:10 pm 
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Quote:
I agree 150% with the above! :!:


Thanks, Michael. I really think it should be a rule that kids must sit with an adult guardian. It's just not fair to other patrons otherwise.

Quote:
Mr. K’s Cinderella was choreographed to show off the whole company.


Definitely, and they showed off quite well! I don't want to give the impression that Patrick had a subpar performance, as he didn't. I'm happy to see him getting the chance to do principal roles. Perhaps it's just that Heather's Cinderella is so magnificent that I found my eye drawn to her more than the Prince. But that's fitting, as it's her story, after all. :)


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:06 am 
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Interesting that the children were allowed to sit unaccompanied, given that there could be liability issues if something happened to the kids. I think that some theatres do require kids to be accompanied by a parent, though ushers can be bad about actually knowing and enforcing regulations. We had a noisy boy behind us on Thursday evening - he seemed to be confused about the story, and therefore a bit bored. And I could see that being a problem with this Cinderella, as it's not a good match for younger kids since it's more complex, and not Disney-ified.

As to Côté, married couples certainly have danced in different companies, though I can't think of any times when it's continued more than a year or so. Sascha Radetsky spent a year at the Dutch National Ballet, while his wife Stella Abrera stayed at ABT. Carlos Molina stayed at ABT for at least a year after his wife, Erica Cornejo left for Boston Ballet. When Tiit Helimets moved to SFB, his wife Molly Smolen did not immediately get a contract. I've seen a lot less success with non-married couples when one dancer departs for another company.

Côté and Ogden's situation may be slightly different since he splitting his time between companies rather than simply moving from one company to another. She may or may not be suited to the rep he dances at places like La Scala, nor may they need her for that rep. And Ogden's so perfect for the NBoC rep - I suspect she'll continue with NBoC and he'll commute. If you learn how to deal with the flights and schedule yourself well, the trans-Atlantic flights aren't bad. Going East is never fun, but westward trips are pretty easy to deal with. I remember taking a ballet class a few hours after stepping off a trans-Atlantic flight without any issues.


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Sun Nov 14, 2010 9:14 am 
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Quote:
Interesting that the children were allowed to sit unaccompanied, given that there could be liability issues if something happened to the kids.


Indeed. Since we were in the rush boxes over the orchestra, I think it was a matter that no one knew about it. The parents must have been in the box below or above, since the girls rushed out at the end of each act, presumably to go see them. The girls did enjoy the ballet and I'm sure tried their best to be quiet, but it's super distracting when they get restless, and we shouldn't have had to be the ones to rein them in.

Quote:
I suspect she'll continue with NBoC and he'll commute.


This is my guess as well. Also my hope, since I'd hate to lose either of them, but Heather is my favourite ballerina.


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Sun Nov 14, 2010 9:31 am 
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The National posted the Ballet Talk hosted by Jennifer Fournier on their website. It’s almost an instant replay of the Ballet Talk I saw on Friday night. It would be too much to expect a fresh different half hour script for each Talk. In any case, most ballet fans will only see one performance of Cinderella. I really liked the way she described the very natural dancing and silent acting of Sonia Rodriguez.

I was a little disappointed in the annual Ballet Yearbook. For me the black outfits just don’t work and the non-principal dancers were photographed too far away.

As for the Côté situation, eventually I see him tiring of all the travel and given the choice, I believe most people would prefer to live and work in Europe-Especially if one is in the arts. There is just so much more culture, employment opportunities, better transportation system, sites, etc. etc.

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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Sun Nov 14, 2010 11:25 am 
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Quote:
I was a little disappointed in the annual Ballet Yearbook. For me the black outfits just don’t work and the non-principal dancers were photographed too far away.


I think the black is flattering and highlights the dancers' lines, but agree that the non-principal photos seemed un-necessarily small. I liked the idea of having them at the bar, but there was a lot of empty space that could have been filled. It's nice to be able to see the faces clearly so I can figure out who I am seeing on stage.


Quote:
As for the Côté situation, eventually I see him tiring of all the travel and given the choice, I believe most people would prefer to live and work in Europe-Especially if one is in the arts. There is just so much more culture, employment opportunities, better transportation system, sites, etc. etc.


Certainly he won't want to travel forever, but at 28? 29?, he's probably not going to be flying around between guest gigs for that many more years. As to ending up in Europe, having lived there, I'd have to disagree. It's hardly a bad place to live, but like everywhere else, the surface hides a lot of flaws (not least in Italy). There's a big different - visa and practicality wise - between spending a couple of months a year in Europe on guest gigs, and moving there long term. (And as far as the arts, NYC is by far exceeds the scope and opportunities of any European city...).

For one, Europe (especially southern Europe) is NOT in good shape financially right now, so it's a not place - compared to Canada - you'd want to be dependent upon for your pension or your salary. The euro is far from stable, tax rates for residents tend to make ours look modest, and public services/benefits are being reduced or cut in many places to balance budgets. Most ballet companies there are heavily government supported, and that's a tricky situation to be in right now with shrinking budgets.

Also, I suspect that Côté is very carefully managing his trips to Europe to avoid losing his OHIP coverage and Canadian pension benefits, as I highly doubt he qualifies for any benefits in Europe. La Scala (and any other companies) likely factor regular medical/physio costs into the non-EU guest contracts, but Côté probably relies on whatever extra benefits plan NBoC provides for its employees in case of medical emergency while abroad. (I assume that NBoC, like other large(r) employers, provides some sort of medical/pension benefits package to employees, as well as having some kind of short term medical package to cover new non-Canadian employees for the three-month wait period before OHIP benefits kick in...).

Finally, there's always an attachment to home, which can be intensely strong even for the most independent types. Especially, when you're getting to the age - like Côté and Ogden, when you might want to start a family and your parents are also getting older. If you live thousands of miles away, will you be able to get back in time if something happens? And have enough support when you have kids? Many of my friends lived in exotic places, but almost all ended moving back near at least one set of in laws before starting a family.


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