Anyone seen Kudelka's Firebird or Four Seasons?
Posted 18 July 2003 - 12:32 PM
Posted 18 July 2003 - 01:49 PM
I love the Four Seasons. I think it's a brilliant piece of work. However, I love the music too, so even if the dancing was awful I could close my eyes! The piece was really made on Rex Harrington...I don't think I've ever seen anyone else dance the role. As this coming season will sadly be his last as a principal dancer, I think we'll see a lot of the Four Seasons.
Firebird I remember less well, as I have only seen it once. The costumes are amazing, quite a feast for the eyes.
Posted 19 July 2003 - 10:21 AM
Kudelka’s Firebird overwhelms your orbs in glowing greens, golds and reds. There is so much eye candy for the mind—it’s a miracle the Hummingbird Centre didn’t explode from a massive hernia! By the time this much too sweet ballet mercifully comes to end; you’ll feel like you’ve devoured a dozen swirls of cream soda flavored cotton candy. It was that much and so, so, sooooo much more!
If you love big production musicals (Lion King comes to mind), you will absolutely love Kudelka’s Firebird. If you love watching dancers dance, you’ll probably wish you viewed a twin bill of the Four Seasons—Thankfully it was on the program. The Four Seasons stays with you: on the way home; in your dreams; those quiet moments during the day when you have time to reflect. The Firebird plays in the cinemas of your soul as brief as a one-night stand and/or formula Hollywood movie with a number tacked on the end of it.
The Four Seasons gives you everything you want in a ballet: emotion, brilliant dancing, movement that needs no words. Kudelka’s Firebird gives you everything you don’t want in a ballet: no emotion, stupid dancing, movement starving for words. You don’t have to read the souvenir program to understand the Four Seasons. It’s a must read to decode the plot behind the Firebird. The Four Seasons is a full course meal. Kudelka teaches us the cruel humour of life. No matter how fast you dance, none of us will escape the grim reaper. The Firebird is little more than dessert. Kudelka teaches us nothing.
The Four Seasons would be pure genius if Kudelka possessed the imagination to have a couple dance through the Four Seasons of life rather than featuring a man in the prominent role—yet again. That little twist would have made his Four Seasons a true “classic.” A woman dancing through the Four Seasons of life would be too much to hope for. Kudelka is obsessed with giving more stage time to the males in his company. Quite laughable when you consider how woefully weak the National Ballet of Canada is in that area with the departure of Johan Persson to the Royal Ballet.
Though nowhere mentioned in the program, the Four Seasons first premiered in 1975 choreographed by Flemming Flindt. The costumes by Carmen Alie and Denis Lavoie were down-to-earth cool. The marriage of Antonio Vivaldi’s music to movement was pure genius. The lighting could have been used to more dramatic effect. The dancing was everything you could hope for: inspired, fresh and giving. To free the imagination of an audience, to invite them on stage with you, to touch their soul: these are the hallmarks of great dancing. Kudelka uses every member of the company—from principal to soloist to corps de ballet to character artist—to perfection. Rex Harrington and Jeremy Ransom transcended dance into the sphere of silent acting.
I cannot heap the above praise onto the Firebird. Mr. K. sprinkled so much sugar on his Firebird; you may toss your cookies—if you can afford the price of cookies at the Hummingbird Centre ($2.50¢ each). The number one problem with the Firebird was the overuse of a gargantuan grandstand and catwalk. The stairs hogged so much of the stage—the Premier Dance Theatre may have provided more dancing room sans stairs. For Saturday’s matinee performance, the moveable grandstand was not so moveable. The dancers experienced much difficulty pushing one section to the far right side of the stage. Many in attendance actually overheard the set crew barking instructions. Neither the stairs nor the catwalk provided a safety bar for the dancers and there appeared to be more stair climbing than actual dancing. The sheer enormity of the sets stretched the normal 15 to 20 minute intermission to a bloated 40 minutes.
Gorgeous Greta Hodgkinson saved this ballet for moi. My eyes were glued to her every moment she was on stage. Unfortunately, those moments were far and few between. Not to have the star of the ballet (The Firebird) on stage longer was unforgivable. Aleksandar Antonijevic made for a very convincing Prince, which was expected, as his forte is the fairy take genre.
See this Firebird for the dazzling sets and costumes by longtime Kudelka collaborator Santo Loquasto. If you’re finicky about your Firebirds, wait for the Paris Opera Ballet to revive Mikhail Fokine’s masterpiece. The year 2010 will mark the 100-year anniversary for this fantasy ballet about a Firebird who munches on golden apples and saves a wimpy Prince from an evil sorcerer. In Kudelka’s remake, a giant egg swallows the soul of the evil sorcerer. Traditionally the egg shatters releasing the evil soul. It all depends on how you like your eggs. It would figure Kudelka likes his hard broiled!
Kudelka’s Firebird is a ménage à trois between the NBoC, Houston Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. Hopefully by the time it plays at HB and ABT, the very dark prince of the NBoC will take a chain saw to the grandstand. His princesses should also get a haircut. The hip-length dreadlocks made them look like Klingons. Their dresses could also use some trimming. I want to see some leg! This ballet-fashion show-musical is just too big to play at the Hummingbird Centre. There was so little dancing, the argument could be made that Kudelka’s Firebird doesn’t even qualify to be called a ballet.
Despite the shortcomings of the Firebird; the 2nd rate acoustics; and 3rd rate sightlines of the soon to be obsolete Hummingbird Centre-this two for one ballet is a must see and hear. I’m sure Antonio Vivaldi and Igor Stravinsky would approve of the NBoC playing and dancing their music to life! Thanks to global warming, Kudelka’s Four Seasons may one day be a tribute to spring, summer, fall and winter instead of the seasons of life. For that reason alone, you should attend this ballet doubleheader.
Firebird - Performance of Dancers: 18/20. Story: 8/20. Choreography: 6/20. Ballet Magic: 11/20. Costumes, Sets & Lighting: 8/10. Music: 9/10. Rating: 60/100.
Four Seasons - Performance of Dancers: 20/20. Story: 16/20. Choreography: 18/20. Ballet Magic: 18/20. Costumes & Lighting: 7/10. Music: 9/10. Rating: 88/100.
Posted 20 July 2003 - 03:42 PM
The Firebird is all spectacle and glitz. There is not much brilliance in the dancing, but it is entertaining enough the first time around. It really depends on your taste.
Posted 02 August 2003 - 07:24 PM
My husband has bought us tickets, as I supsected he would , as an anniversary gift. This will be my husbands first "live" ballet, and it sounds like the perfect double bill. The Four Seasons will satisfy my need for classical dance, and it sounds like The Firebird will add just enough theatrics to keep my husband entertained. I don't want to scare him off ballet in one fell swoop. However, I am sure the NBoC will entertain hin a little more than my dancing around the house!!!!
Thank you all again for the fab reviews. I will let you know our impressions of the night ASAP.
Posted 04 August 2003 - 04:14 PM
...Glasco believes in Petipa. Kudelka is the anti-Petipa. A duet hopelessly doomed from the very beginning. Marius Petipa, master chef of the Imperial Ballet (1818-1910), excelled in stirring sophistication into classical ballet. He created choreography to serve up the ballerina. Kim Glasco would have been the main dish of his ballet. James Kudelka, the urban peasant of the National Ballet of Canada (1956-), excels in stirring modern movement into classical ballet. He creates choreography to serve up his own choreography. Kimberly Glasco is nothing more than a seasoning for his ballet. To one, the ballerina whirls the ballet; to the other, choreography stirs the ballet. How can it be that Glasco sticks her toes into the dough of Kudelka’s choreography but makes Petipa’s ballet rise?
Kudelka’s signature ballets—The Four Seasons and Terra Firma—just happen to be as anti-Petipa as you can possibly get. Kudelka’s dancers dress down: hip, with-it and cool. They sweat! Petipa’s ballerinas dressed up: all a glitter, the rage and très chic. They would never do anything as distasteful as sweat. Petipa’s ballerinas glowed with dew. One was a tutuhorse, the other a smart shopper. Both dressed appropriately for the circles they danced in. Petipa’s ballerinas danced with the upper crust; Kudelka’s dancers dance with common folk. The worlds they danced in could not be more different: one opulent, the other down-to-earth.
Dance maker Petipa loved mime. Dance maker Kudelka let his dance do the talking. One prefers 4 act ballets; for the other, one is enough. Petipa froze time to spice up his dance. He loved to take a photograph of his choreography for the audience. Kudelka keeps his bodies in perpetual motion. All those moving bodies thickens his choreography for the audience. One made ballets that would pause for applause. The other makes ballets that wait for applause. Petipa loved the pas de deux while Kudelka loves the pas de beaucoup. These choreographers could not be more different: one a show-off, the other beauty unadorned.
One loved harmony. The other likes a little disharmony. Petipa’s ballerinas hardly ever intertwined full of passion. Kudeka’s dancers almost always intertwine full of passion. Petipa drew precise classical lines with dynamic pointe work. Kudelka paints modern circles with softer pointe work. For Petipa, balance should endure. For Kudelka, balance is fleeting. They even had different ways of creating. Petipa planned everything in detail at home before going into rehearsal. Kudelka prepares too but prefers to create more so in the studio with the dancer as his inspiration. These choreographers were the flip side of one another. One prefers to have a man dance through The Four Seasons of life. The other would have made a woman for all seasons.
Kudelka wants to eliminate the traditional role of the ballerina as the focus of ballet. To him, the silhouette of Kim Glasco clouds his choreography. For Petipa, the ballerina was the focus of ballet. To him, the heartbeat of ballet was the ballerina. Neither choreographer is right or wrong. It’s all a matter of taste. Kudelka is simply balancing out Petipa’s ballerina excesses. For Petipa, man was born to support woman. For Kudelka, man, woman, doesn’t matter everybody supports everybody.
There is one very important distinction to be made between their creations. Kudelka makes athletic dancers. Petipa made elegant ballerinas. Kudelka’s dancers have to move to many languages. From MacMillan’s Manon to Kudelka’s Four Seasons to Cranko’s Taming of the Shrew to Petipa’s Swan Lake to...well you get the idea. The National Ballet of Canada presents ballets from a veritable smorgasbord of choreographers. For the 1999/2000 season, the NBoC will be stretching the boundaries of ballet to its very limits with a work by Èdouard Lock of La La Human Steps. This looks like a blatant attempt to sell seats. I can’t envision the harsh physicality of Lock’s dance gelling with classical ballet. Perhaps Kudelka has plans to change the National Ballet of Canada to the National Dance of Canada. It appears Kudelka believes Glasco is incapable of wrapping her toes around a wide variety of choreography. I agree to a pointe but not to the extent of Kudelka. No dancer will excel in every kind of ballet. Next season, the National is presenting 4 ballets Glasco absolutely shines in: Cinderella, Onegin, Les Sylphides and Giselle.
In Kudelka’s mind, Glasco dances not for him but for Petipa. Glasco stomps all over his choreography with Petipa’s ballet method. Nobody can compete against a ghost. From my view of the stage, it appears Kudelka doesn’t believe he can teach an old ballerina new tricks. I can only surmise he doesn’t care for any dancers who can’t dance the Kudelka way. Of course, Mr. K. has proven he can go toe to toe with Petipa. I just don't believe you can include the Nutcracker and Swan Lake as original Kudelka creations. In the case of the Nutcracker he improved upon it by doing away with Drosselmeyer, adding his bears along with a dancing horse. Twenty years or so from now when ballet historians evaluate his career The Four Seasons and Terra Firma will be identified as the Kudelka style. If he can’t bring out what he wants from Glasco I think he should share some of the blame. There certainly appears to be enough other ballets to keep Glasco’s tootsies busy during the course of next season.
Posted 28 September 2003 - 02:24 PM
(Creativejuice, I so loved reading your review, but I never thought I'd see Firebird and Four Seasons live. Luckily I stumbled upon the National Ballet of Canada tour schedule, and was able to get a ticket to a performance in Vancouver at the Queen Elizabeth Theater. Your descriptions were delightful and prepared me for what I was about to see.)
The only time I've ever seen the Company perform live was in 1986, when they brought Alice to New York. That was also the only time I saw Rex Harrington perform, as Lewis Carroll, but apart from general impressions of the choreography, music, and production, which I loved, the only performance I remember is Karen Kain's. So I assumed I was going to see part of his farewell tour, and, as it turns out, he didn't dance Friday night; Aleksandar Antonijevic did. So while I don't know what I was missing, I do know what I saw, and Antonijevic was wonderful.
I knew I was in for something different when I took my seat and found next to me a father and his very antsy 7-ish-year-old son, who was bouncing around a bit. They were soon joined by a 6-ish-year old girl and mother. Once the performance started, the kids started to ask the occasional question, like "What is he doing?" Traffic was bad, and the three-hour trip took five, and by the time I found my hotel, rushed to the theater, and got to my seat, I was exhausted into passivity. But instead of seething and shushing, I decided to watch the performance as if I was the 7-year-old boy, and I got a totally different perspective. Apologies to Tina Pereira, but when four men started doing consecutive movements in the background of the Spring pas de deux, I followed his comments and watched the men. If this had been performance art, with the crowd at floor level and the lights on, that little boy would have joined in, and followed their movements, and if I weren't a self-conscious adult, I would have been tempted to join him.
In Summer, Stacey Hiori Minagawa danced the lead, and her choreography looked very "limby" -- lots of stabbing leg-work, but not much from the center. I thought that maybe Kudelka was ignoring women in this ballet, until Rebekah Rimsay stepped on stage in the Autumn movement. There was a burst of joyous, full-bodied dancing, with gorgeous, finished shapes. The entire ballet lit up when she was onstage.
The children really loved the beginning of Winter, with the jousting men. Then Piotr Stancyzk came onstage, and again I was riveted, both by his presence, and the contrast between his character and Antonijevic's. During an earlier visit to Vancouver this summer, I read an article in (I think) The Globe and Mail about up-and-coming young male dancers at NBC, and I was glad to see a featured dancer live up to his hype. Also wonderful and unexpected was Hazaros Surmeyan's dancing. It reminded me of seeing Flamenco performances, where the young male dancers work up a frenzy of a sweat, and then at the end, the singers and musicians each do a little dance solo. There's always some 60+-year old cajon player with a big belly and a shy demeaner who does a minute-long dance and knocks your socks off. It was great to see a part for older dancers that fit perfectly into the cycle of life theme, but showed them off as full-blooded, robust creatures, not as statues or one foot away from the grave.
The kids really "got" Firebird, until the static part in the middle, where Katschei and his wife showed up. I don't know why, but I've never seen a production of Firebird that didn't go dead there, even though it ends in such powerful, rhythmic music. Usually, the Prince is on an empty stage until Firebird shows up, the princesses are separated from the forest, and it's not until the Katshei scenes that the creaturs show up. I really liked Kudelka's opening, with the Prince's solo among the forest creatures, and where the creatures interacted with the princesses. Although it's not really ballet dancing, and is a theatrical conceit, it was magical when the creatures turned themselves into rock and tree stump formations to become seats and benches for the characters.
I thought the Princesses' pas de deux with the Prince was substantial and elegant. I was too distracted by the princesses' dresses, through, to fixate on their ugly corkscrew tresses; the skirts were hung like narrower versions of the dwarf's and infanta's dresses in Las Meninas. They were cut and constructed well, though; during the turns, the skirts turned with the bodice, instead of with a 1/4 turn delay, as I had feared. The rest of Loquasto's costumes and the sets were stunning, and looked like it would take three companies to finance them.
Even though I would not see Greta Hodgkinson, I was looking forward to seeing Chan Hon Goh; I figured if Suzanne Farrell picked her, she must have something extra. I was sorely disappointed. First the choreography had none of the incense in Balanchine's pas de deux, when the women melts to each side, and none of the soft perfume in many versions of the Berceuse. I'm not sure if it was Goh's performance or the choreography or both, but I felt like I was watching Tweetiebird, not Firebird: there were too many mincing, sharp movements, and not much strength, pliancy, and exoticism.
Guillaume Cote's performance as Prince Ivan was a dream when he had something substantial to dance: he danced with clarity, lovely line and extension, and soft knees. In each pose, he held the tension of the position, but without effort. He danced as if he needed no preparation; a jump would spring out of nowhere, with a light landing. Although he has the extension of a lot of men, his arabesque comes from the center of his back, unlike most.
The best part of the night, though, came from the orchestra. I have never heard a better, more live performance of The Four Seasons either live or on recording. Concermaster Fujiko Imajishi, who performed the violin solos, should be a household name, like Joshua Bell or Yo Yo Ma. She is a treasure.
Posted 30 September 2003 - 06:52 AM
It's quite a spectacle, and for some other reviews there is a thread on the Pennsylvania Ballet section re their production of Kudelka's Firebird this past June.
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