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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:59 pm 
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A more complete review of Cinderella (I'm awaiting more detailed casting so I can credit the demi-solo roles)


Cinderella
National Ballet of Canada
11 November 2010
Four Seasons Centre, Toronto

After the annual summer ballet drought, the patience of Torontonian ballet fans was well rewarded with the return of James Kudelka’s “Cinderella”. A more contemporary interpretation of the traditional fairytale, this Cinderella reveals flashes of choreographic brilliance, bolstered by outstanding performances in terms of both technique and character. Still, as with his other full-length ballets, Kudelka seems to falter in terms of telling a cohesive, compelling story.
Kudelka’s Cinderella differs from most other stage versions in the softness of the edges; there’s less clash between good and evil, and more quirky, gentle humour. Cinderella is not so downtrodden as ever busy, her stepsisters more inept social climbers than cruel or vindictive. The stepmother, a boozy blend of EastEnder’s Peggy Mitchell and Bend in Like Beckham’s Paula Paxton (the mother of Keira Knightley’s character), was far more pathetic drunk than evil schemer. This trio of inept in-laws, danced by Tanya Howard, in a debut, Rebekah Rimsey and Joanna Ivey, were delightfully conceived and acted. The sisters’ preparations, complete with tailors, dance teachers and paid escorts, were full of comical detail, but story seemed to get lost in this detail. The two key pieces that seemed to be lost were the invitation to the ball, and the evil or ill treatment from which Cinderella needs an escape.
When she does escape, however, Cinderella is treated to some of Kudelka’s most inspired choreography. The creatures of her beloved garden, Blossom, Petal, Moss and Twig bring her the pieces to create her ballroom fantasy in a series of fluttering, delicate dances. The uncredited dancers were all superb, attacking the quick steps with breezy aplomb. Lorna Geddes Fairygodmother was a kind soul, but somewhat lost in the story. The choreography also shines in the large group scenes, with the intricate, weaving steps for the pumpkin-headed ballroom men particularly effective and memorable. It was the scene that finally blended the magic of ballet and fairytale. However, the steps disappointed a bit in the ballroom scene, as Kudelka seemed to ignore some of the musical highlights, and the sparkly, but simply draped dresses didn’t capture the ebb and flow of Prokofiev’s grand waltz.
In the second act, the sweeping ballroom choreography also highlights Cote's ability to blend steps together into natural dance phrases. In twisting from a downward grasping motion fluidly up into an attitude derriere, Côté created one unbroken motion out of many, difficult steps. The effect would have been even more mesmerizing, had not the prince’s dark tail-coat and trousers blended in so well with the other men and the dark backdrop. 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 uniquely spectacular form of rapid transport!), she could surely have whipped up more of a dress! Rodriquez, though, is a true balletic treasure, not only in her impeccable technique, but in the emotion she brings to the simplest motion. Her first few moments on stage revealed a novel’s worth about her Cinderella.

As a whole, the dancing - save the usual occasional first night nervous bobbles - was the high quality we've come to expect from NBoC. It’s a shame that many of the roles were not individually credited, nor were the corps listed, as each and every dancer brought something to the ballet. I believe I spotted Jonathan Renna and Keichi Hirano sparkling in secondary roles.

When happily ever after happens, the ballet soars in a spectacular final pas de deux. With Rodriguez and Cote at their finest, and Kudelka taking full advantage of the music, the audience is treated to a few minutes of pure ballet heaven. It's love and joy expressed through sweeping choreography crowned with lifts where Rodriquez soars up to halt in attitude derriere. Cote is given a chance 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. And oh, what a dress – the silken, knee length concoction that Cinderella wears for her wedding is totally chic.
The excellent orchestra was conducted by David Briskin, the set and costume designs by David Boechler and the lighting design by Christopher Dennis.


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Thu Nov 18, 2010 4:05 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
A preview of Wayne McGregor's "Chroma" by Jordan Bimm in Toronto Now.

Toronto Now


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 7:03 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
In The Star, Emily Mathieu interviews artistic director Karen Kain about money and investing.

The Star


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 11:51 am 
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Location: Stouffville, Ontario, Canada
The Globe & Mail talks to dance maker Wayne McGregor about Chroma.

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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 12:16 pm 
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Anyone else very excited for this triple bill?!

It's been a while since I've gotten to see Serenade, and I've really wanted to see Chroma ever since it premiered in London. Should be a great evening!

Kate


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 12:18 pm 
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Yes, I'm quite excited, too! I loved "Emergence" when it premiered and I'm eager to see the other two ballets as well. :)


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 11:48 pm 
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“Chroma”, “Serenade”, “Emergence”
November 24, 2010
National Ballet of Canada
Four Seasons Center, Toronto

Baseball season may be over, but the National Ballet of Canada hit a grand slam at Thursday’s premiere of the year’s final mixed bill. It was an evening that started with Wayne Macgregor’s fascinating “Chroma”, stepped back in time to wrap the audience in the purity of “Serenade”, and ended in the drone-world of Crystal Pite’s “Emergence”. And it was a night where barely a foot was placed wrong; every ballet and every dance riveting. Finally at the Four Seasons Centre, balletic talent is matched with equal choreographic talent.

With “Chroma”, it is clear why Macgregor is considered both a choreographic marvel and one not bound by traditional limits. The way he moves bodies is not easily captured by words, but it mixes an oozing, muscular fluidity with crisp shapes. The dancers are often pushed to their limits, the women stretching out into standing splits. The couples seem to contort themselves around each other, but it’s a push and pull of equals rather than the man controlling the woman. The choreography is enhanced by the inspired choice of a score that includes orchestrated versions of music by Jory Talbot and Jack White. A surprising classical backdrop for such contemporary movement, the music serves to enhance the continuity of the movement. Lucy Carter’s lighting design is refreshingly bright, making the dancers’ lines clear as a bell.
Perhaps inspired by this new challenge, and clad in Moritz Junge’s custom dyed flesh-coloured costumes, the dancers rose to new heights. In the legato central pas de deux Zdenek Konvalina and Tina Pereira gave a new meaning to control. The choreography was a perfect match for Konvalina’s fluidity and Pereira’s power.


The sight of seventeen women, one arm outstretched in the opening pose of Balanchine’s “Serenade” never fails to inspire a chorus of gasps. It is at once powerful and mysterious; an invitation and a warning of sorts. Debuted in 1935, and tinkered with for many more years, the ballet seems to embody some of the un-settling uncertainty a young Balanchine felt in the unsettled years leading up to World War II. The combination of Tchaikovsky’s glorious “Serenade in C Major” and Balanchine’s evocative steps has few, if any equals in ballet history. Never has music been so indivisible with the steps. The images are also uniquely striking – the groups of women with their arms - in high 5th position - arranged like petals on a flower; the line of woman melting away as each dancer turns and twists away, and the ballerina in arabesque, looking like the little figure in a jewelry box, as she is slowly turned by her sitting partner. And the final haunting moments with the ballerina, lifted high by three men, arching backwards as if to reach for the past as they process into the unseen future.
Interestingly, “Serenade” received the least applause. There were a few wayward arms – though certainly no more than what one seems with New York City Ballet – but perhaps the ballet will gain in power with a performance or two. We were treated to a lovely performance from Xiao Nan Yu, and McGee Maddox offered solid partnering and elegant lines.

The evening ended in the eerie world of Crystal Pite’s “Emergence”. Seeing the ballet from stage level, as opposed to from above, gives it a whole new meaning. We’re trapped in a world of drones, simply, but powerfully costumed in black (pl)eather, who revel in collective power. The ballet, with it’s driving electronic score, shows of the company’s men especially well. Nearly every man in NBoC shares the stage in a stunning synchronized display of power. Not that the female corps is left out; Pites makes pointe-shoed feet into insect like feet.

The buzzing sounds suggest that we are an insect-world, but the only thing one can be sure of is that it’s a world where the power is collective and laden with doom. The ending is not unhappy, but it leaves us unsettled. Pite’s fascinating, body contorting choreography especially focuses on the upper body, at times turning arms into angular insect legs. At other points, the dancers lie prone on the stage, pressing up with elbows akimbo, looking head on like creepy spiders or, with the sucking sounds of the music, like strange amphibians rising from the mud. They’re anything but human. The lack of humanity is highlight in the fact that we’re rarely given an emotional link to these creatures – it’s the fascination of watching ants in an ant-farm, rather than the emotional lives of our fellow man. No less riveting, but pure cold blooded drama.

A large part of the ballet’s draw is the way the dancers completely immerse themselves into every step. There is a commitment to the choreography that you don’t often see, and it manifests itself into breathtaking synchronization and almost chillingly emotionally-blank power. The costumes and the lighting (Linda Chow, Alan Brodie) tend to anonymize the dancers, but Aleksandar Antonijevic still stood out amongst the crowd.

David Briskin conducted.


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Thu Nov 25, 2010 8:36 am 
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Thanks for the review, Kate! Now I'm even more excited to see this mixed programme on Saturday.


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Fri Nov 26, 2010 1:12 pm 
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Location: Stouffville, Ontario, Canada
The Globe & Mail, Sun, and Eye Weekly ALL provided rave reviews for the mixed program.

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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2010 2:37 pm 
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Quote:
Baseball season may be over, but the National Ballet of Canada hit a grand slam at Thursday’s premiere of the year’s final mixed bill.


I wish I could concur with the above by Kate but for moi, who attended the Thursday performance, I was stuck on third. Chroma did not move me at all. The movements evoked memories of Stravinsky Violin Concerto with some of its crab like moves-Just a run of the mill modern piece and nothing more. I must confess my preference for story ballets and Balanchine ballets. Watching Chroma was like listening to country music for moi-I can listen once but not twice.

Quote:
Interestingly, “Serenade” received the least applause. There were a few wayward arms – though certainly no more than what one seems with New York City Ballet – but perhaps the ballet will gain in power with a performance or two.


I enjoyed this ballet most of all with no audible yawns. This was a break out performance by Tanya Howard who reminded me a little of Suzanne Farrell with her long flowing hair. I would rather watch this ballet 100 times straight than sit through Chroma.

* Perhaps the yawns were a result of the music by Tchaikovsky, which appears to end 2 times before finally coming to a close.

Curiously, I did notice some ballet goers leave early instead of sticking around for Emergence. I guess it just wasn’t to their tastes, which is okay. Below is my review from the premiere.

Quote:
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.

:wink: 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. :wink:

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!

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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2010 4:59 pm 
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Location: Ontario, Canada
Just returned from today's performance. My daughter (who is infinitely more knowledgeable about dance) went on Friday. Daughter's comments first:

* She loved Chroma. Noah Long had one of the more substantial parts and while she commented that "the kid can move," she also noted that she didn't think he had the extensions for the role, and would have preferred someone like Ryan Booth (not cast in Chroma).

* She felt that Serenade was not well done. She said that the lines of the corps were not as clean as they should have been, and that Greta Hodgkinson and partner failed to impress. She learned later that GH had been injured during Chroma. (After seeing Chroma I can understand that injuries might occur!!)

* She love Emergence. Felt that it was barely shy of choreographic genius.

My views:

* Chroma was interesting - almost scary with what the dancers were asked to do with their bodies. Note to Karen Kain: McGee Maddox did not impress, yet again. If this is to be a pattern on Sunday matinees, I will need to do something about my ticket.

* Serenade was lovely, particularly enjoyed Bridgette Zehr. Did not notice the issues with lines to the extent that was reported by my daugther.

* Emergence - I remember when it was first performed it wasn't my favourite. Still isn't. I am likely too old (sigh). It is too dark, and I don't particularly enjoy the bug theme. Once again, I noticed how well certain dancers did (such as James Leja), over others.

To sum up: KK, please promote James Leja.


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 8:59 am 
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I loved all three segments when I saw them on Saturday afternoon. I found the constant movement in Chroma mesmerizing. It's one I'd love to see again since there was so much going on. I paid special attention to McGee Maddox, and I found him quite capable, but not overly impressive. Tanya Howard, Heather Ogden, Bridgett Zehr, Zdenek Konvalina and Patrick Lavoie were excellent in Serendade. I loved Emergence when it premiered and was equally impressed on second viewing. Dark and compelling, and I was rapt. I had to chuckle in the bathroom afterwards when I heard an older woman say of Emergence, "I kept waiting for them to start dancing." I'm a fair bit younger than many other ballet patrons, and while I do love the classics as well, I do enjoy the modern pieces as well. However I'm sure it's not simply generational, just a matter of preference. :)

Bridgett was excellent in Emergence as well, although her emaciated frame made me wince. I was very saddened to hear that her sister passed away suddenly this summer, and I'm sure this has been a difficult few months, to say the least. I hope she's doing well off stage and wish her all the best.


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2010 3:15 pm 
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I'm rather late to the party, but I'm here to chime in my opinions on the November mixed program.

Like some others, I found Chroma to be mostly sterile. I believe the problem was more in the performances than in the choreography, because certain performances or parts of performances overcame that pervading sterility. In particular, I thought Tanya Howard and Zdenek Konvalina were excellent. One of the men in the central trio -- I think it was Robert Stephen? -- also stood out. I agree with mom2's daughter that Noah Long was great (can definitely move) but not physically built for his role. Bridgett Zehr was among the most unemotional of the lead dancers for me, not usually a problem I have with her, aside from a few moments in her more adagio pas de deux that were exquisite. Still, the piece is impressive, both standing alone and in terms of what it demands of the dancers.

I enjoyed Serenade a lot. Stephanie Hutchison, Heather Ogden and Xiao Nan Yu were all lovely. I especially admire Ogden's instincts for when to draw out her movement in the music and Yu's acting ability. While the rest of the corps carried pleasant enough facial expressions, Sarah Wolff was a joy to watch -- she actually looked like she was enjoying herself! Brett van Sickle and McGee Maddox both performed well, but I still find Maddox to be "serviceable" rather than a notable performer. Maybe that's what this role required of him? van Sickle, like Wolff, added more emotion to his performance, but neither was he particularly memorable. But after all, the piece is really all about the ladies.

Finally, I'm in the camp that adores Emergence. I actually think I liked it better on this viewing than on its debut, and I liked it a lot back then too. Unlike Chroma, I found it captivating and full of emotion. Sonia Rodriguez plays this up beautifully in the introductory segment. Pite's intention of comparing natural orders among insects to human social orders and relationships (particularly regarding concentration of power and control) comes through loud and clear to me. Long and Howard both stood out to me again in this piece, even behind their masks.


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Thu Dec 09, 2010 7:31 pm 
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BDW
I agree that Maddox is serviceable - and that's not a bad thing. Good partners are not always in abundance, and it can take many years to develop into a fuller dancer. Some dancers take longer than others - I remember James Fayette at NYCB who was a late bloomer, but ended his career as one of the best partners in the company.

As to Emergence, my friend and I both thought that it seemed a bit shorter - for the better - than at the premiere. I wonder if it was trimmed slightly to tighten up the action because everything seemed to really click this time, as opposed to the premiere when I felt things dragged on a bit long.

One of my most frequent complaints, particularly with newer choreographers, is that they run out of things to "say" before the ballets are finished. I think part of the fault lies with ADs and/or companies who commission a piece of a certain length to fill a performance slot, and don't take into account that a less experienced or talented choreographer may not (yet) be capable of a longer piece. I'd rather see a choreographer do shorter ballets to start, and then develop longer pieces as they establish a choreographic palette and voice. I think a good example of this was/is Christopher Wheeldon, who was given ample opportunity by NYCB, to do shorter pieces, so that when he started doing longer pieces and full lengths, they were well developed.

Frankly, I think it's more of a challenge to keep a piece to a certain length, and companies might get stronger ballets if they asked for something no longer than 20 minutes unless they are dealing with a talented, established choreographer. But that might mean programming more ballets, which would incur more cost unless they're willing to control costume/set costs.


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 Post subject: Re: National Ballet of Canada - Fall 2010
PostPosted: Sat Dec 11, 2010 9:31 am 
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Location: Stouffville, Ontario, Canada
The Globe & Mail talks to Sonia Rodriguez about Sugar Plum Fairies, Grinch Critics, and Leaf Blowers!

Quote:
So is Kurt banned from operating a leaf blower?

We haven’t gone out to replace it, if that’s what you mean.
:mrgreen:

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