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Nat. Ballet of Canada at Kennedy CenterJan 17-22


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#16 Helene

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Posted 21 January 2006 - 12:11 PM

There were a couple of things that I did like about the "handlers," although they did occasionally distract from the divertissements. In the standard version, there are unaccompanied princesses. Either they are generic, when the divertissements are entertaining tributes to the prince sent from foreign lands, or they are foreign princesses leading their own contingent. von Rothbart makes an appearance with Odile. He's always a striking figure who often chats up the Queen, sitting next to her or across the stage in a similarly prominent position. But he's an unusual contrast to the protocol.

In Kudelka's production, each one of the princesses has her chaperone, and each has his own personality and relationship to the princess. That relationship plays into the way the princess plays to the court, and how much she is interested or appearing against her own will, and what their strategy is for winning. ("Don't touch until you've paid" vs. "Get a good look.") If I'm remembering correctly, in the Russian dance, the princess is distant and proud, and her handler is very protective of her, in a patriarchal sort of way.

In my opinion, what this does is two-fold: it puts von Rothbart in the same context, which makes dramatic sense, and it is a set-up for the emotional range that Odile acts out to capture Siegfried.

#17 bart

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 07:41 AM

Alexandra Tomalonis's review is here -- and an intelligent, nicely descriptive, and devastating one it is, tending to confirm what our posters here have noted. I llike the fact that she, like others here, can put this production in the context of previous NBofC work.

http://www.danceview...r/03/nboc1.html

#18 walboi

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 07:52 AM

I am shocked by this review, someone I know is dancing in this company and she told me as much, but I could not believe it. Kudelka ruins a perfect ballet. Why.
Walbo :)

#19 Helene

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 08:42 AM

I am astonished that the Company is marketing this ballet as traditional. In Canada, the hype was that it was a story about Siegfried, who rejected the corrupt court. The marketing approach wasn't quite as personal as Peter Sellars' synopsis of Tristan und Isolde in the Opera Bastille program ("Act 1: Two damaged, angry, desperate, and hurt human beings are on a long trip in the same boat. Neither expects to survive the journey. For Isolde, suicidal despair takes the form of violent, destructive moods swings, bitter sarcasm, uncontrollable weeping and the need to talk everything out. For Tristan, it is the scarred, painful silence of emotional blockage and denial...), but when I saw this Swan Lake, I had to scratch my head, because Siegfried was played well within the dramatic tradition, especially if Nureyev's and others' attempts to expand Siegfried's role are counted.

I guess the gang-rape was so tasteful, I missed it. I must have been looking upstage.

I had forgotten one detail: when Siegfried is about to be forced to choose, all four princesses are lined up in a row, on their stools. Siegfried pushes one of them off -- I can't remember who is at the downstage right end -- and as she and her handler leave the stage in a huff, he replaces her with Odile. I guess this act of rudeness signifies his complicity with corruption.

#20 drb

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 08:53 AM

Why.
Walbo :)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

It is a droit du seigneur of all Artistic Directors to improve Swan Lake. ( After all, everyone knows the original was a failure. :) )

#21 Tammy Spadina

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 12:54 PM

At Friday night's performance, the principals were Heather Ogden and Nehemiah Kish as Seigfried. Ogden danced exceedingly well, with liquid arms, but she frowned the whole way through even when she was supposed to be falling in love.

The corps was ill-served by the choreography. A lot of times especially in the first scene, it first seemed that they were drastically out of sync, but gradually we realized that it was unevenness in the choreography that made it look that way. Actually the dancing throughout was fine.

During the court scene, Siegfried left the stage during most of the second and third divertissements - or perhaps it was the third and fourth ? - so the ladies were performing to an empty chair. (Stool, actually.) Since no other posters have mentioned this, I suppose it must have been some technical or shoe-type problem on that evening.

I for one liked the scenery of the lakeside reeds and rushes and hay bales. It looked like the southern end of Lake Winnipeg and fostered an interpretation of Rothbart as protector of nature.

#22 Ginny Kanter

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 03:12 PM

A Swan Lake in which Siegfried shows no interest in Odette/Odile, little interest in anyone else, and seemingly not a great deal of interest in dancing is a curious one indeed. It has no core, no heart, no soul. There is no reason for the ballerina to be working so hard. We're still mulling over the Saturday matinee performance in which the most heartfelt applause of the afternoon went to the Italian princess for coping with aplomb when one of her shoes came completely untied. (Yes, this was a show of support for a dancer in a dangerous situation, but it didn't in itself preclude more enthusiastic applause for the principals' pas de deux or pas de trois.)

There were moments to enjoy in this production, but they didn't come in the expected places. Nan Wang's Benno was nobler of line and bearing than Patrick Lavoie's Siegfried. Tanya Howard was a fine wench. Still, the queen picked her imperious way down to the dock not a moment too soon. By all means send the lad on his way! High time!

After a first act of three-by-three-by-three repetitive dancing by the prince's ostensible pals, the differentiated choreography for the princesses was welcome. Their handlers/hucksters/ambassadors also took individual approaches to their task, and the members of the court reacted differently to the succession of princesses. For example, whispering and knowing smiles greeted the Spanish princess. (Julie Hay brought an un-Iberian porcelain prettiness reminiscent of Moira Shearer to the role but danced with appropriate spirit.) As soon as she finished, the male members of the court promptly sat down again.

A small but pleasant touch was the drifting movement of some subgroups of black swans, which was subtly avian. Still, most of the Kudelka interpolations--the skip added to the swans' entrance, the bourrees added to the cygnets' dance--hardly seemed improvements.

It would be very interesting to know how Kudelka explained this production to the dancers, how they feel about it, and how Karen Kain feels about it. She will surely be very good for the company. I look forward to seeing the National Ballet of Canada again in a different program. (Another opportunity to see Suzanne Farrell's production of the Balanchine Don Quixote would be particularly welcome!)

#23 bart

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 04:00 PM

It would be very interesting to know how Kudelka explained this production to the dancers, how they feel about it, and how Karen Kain feels about it.

Just what I was thinking. In the face of this overwhelming and convincing criticism, is there no one to defend Kudelka's vision and this production? Or at least to explain what so many people must have seen in it to allow it to be (a) funded, (b) produced, and © sent abroad as ane example of the best NBofC can do. :)

#24 Alexandra

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 04:12 PM

I guess the gang-rape was so tasteful, I missed it.  I must have been looking upstage.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


It actually WAS upstage; I made a braino in the review and that ghastly editor didn't catch it :) Also, Kudelka's one-act ballet mentioned in passing is "The Contract" not "The Contract." (both errors have been corrected in the review now on line.)

The quotes from Canadian reviews are all very positive -- "triumphant production!," that kind of thing, bart.

There's another review on DanceView Tiimes, by George Jackson, called:

Why?

#25 Marga

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Posted 23 January 2006 - 06:11 PM

is there no one to defend Kudelka's vision and this production?  Or at least to explain what so many people must have seen in it to allow it to be (a) funded, (b) produced, and sent abroad as ane example of the best NBofC can do.  :huh:

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

There's not one person here in Canada among my dance friends and acquaintances who has anything good to say about it. The reactions have ranged from mere dislike to disbelief (as in, "what has he done to our SL???") to disgust.
It has generally been considered a man's Swan Lake as well as James Kudelka's personal statement (whatever that may be -- lots of juicy gossip has passed through balletgoers' lips).

Perhaps Kudelka was given carte blanche when the revision was funded, based on his status. I don't think he had to show anyone anything in advance, and the powers-that-be who fund the NBoC may not have had enough ballet knowledge to protest. As for it being sent abroad, all I have to say is that serious Canadian balletomanes are embarrassed that this production has been taken on tour. Who's big idea was this? :)

#26 sparklesocks

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Posted 24 January 2006 - 09:28 PM

Hmm. Shows you how little attention I've paid to things over the years. I only go to see the dancers that I truly love in the lead roles. I don't spend any time at all "analyzing" - I just go to enjoy dance. And I guess it is for that reason that I hadn't realized the bad taste that Kudelka's work seems to leave in many mouths. What's funny, is that I often find myself thinking, "so what" to many of the things that reviewers point out as being weaknesses in his productions. Interesting.

#27 koshka

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 05:09 AM

sparklesocks raises something I've been thinking about while reading the reactions above and thinking about my reaction to the 2 shows I saw at the Kennedy Center last week. When one sees a ballet by a visiting company, especially a company that one has rarely or never seen before, one can comment and focus upon (at least!) two aspects of the performance(s): the company and its dancers and dancing, and the production itself.

I was totally wowed by the company. I would be happy to watch them just walk around and spend an entire evening doing arabesques (one reviewer somewhere said that the choreography was repetititve and had too many arabesques, which reminded me of nothing so much as the line in the movie "Amadeus" where Salieri says a piece by Mozart has "too many notes".)

That said, I can definitely see the points made by the posters here who already know the company and were more focused on the production, which was rather odd.

All in all, I would probably have been happier to see them in a traditional Swan Lake, although (plot aside) I loved the extended male corps work in the first act, probably because it's so very rare to see so much good dancing by a male corps.

#28 bart

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 05:54 AM

sparklesocks and koshka have raised an interesting point. I've noticed that often -- particularly in the New York City Ballet discussions of (for instance) the controversial Martins Swan Lake -- there seem to be two parallel discussions going on: production (which is constant) and dancers (which are often seen as existing on a night-by-night basis). Poeple tend to post about one or the other rather than the interaction of the two.

I tend to see myself as being with sparklesocks on this. I love dancing, and am willing to put up with a great variety of production and interpretation, unless it's really out of line. And I'm glad to read koshka's tribute to the NBofC dancers, who sometimes have seemed tarnished by the same brush used against Kudelka. Or -- sadder -- -hardly mentioned at all.

Maybe this should be a topic on another thread: in a classic like Swan Lake -- or any ballet, for that matter -- which matters most to you, the production/interpretation/etc/ or the dancing?

#29 chauffeur

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 06:01 AM

Being a relative newcomer to these NBoC discussions, I have to say that one thing that's hitting me is the amount of Kudelka-bashing that's going on nowadays. Has it always been this way, or is it part of some "good-bye" ritual where what was previously considered acceptable (or even genius) is now being reassessed and found lacking? Or was there a point at which his work did change? I'm not saying that people's perceptions now are at all invalid, but I'm confused as to how a choreographer whose work seems lately to be universally reviled ever lasted in the job as long as he did.

#30 Helene

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Posted 25 January 2006 - 09:15 AM

The response to Four Seasons was very positive in general. Kudelka's works that have been most criticized here are classics -- Swan Lake and Firebird -- and full lengths -- like The Contract.

I know that in Seattle, I loved nearly all of Kent Stowell's full-lengths, but not so much his one-act ballets. Perhaps Kudelka's strength is the opposite.

Regular NBoC-goers, please weigh in.


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