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Fall mixed program


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#1 Paquita

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Posted 19 November 2002 - 08:07 AM

I attended the opening night performance on saturday. The mixed program of Bayadere Act 2, A Delicate Battle, and the Firebird aptly showcased the range of talent and versatility in the company.
The Kingdom of the Shades looked beautiful. This was my first time seeing NBoC dance it, and the corps did an excellent job. Corps member Tina Pereira, deserved special recognition for her flawlessly controlled penchees (all 32 of them! she was the first shade). All those arabesque balances must make Bayadere one of the most torturous ballets for the corps dancers! I was impressed at the unity of the corps, excluding a few times when they were not exactly in sync. Greta Hodgkinson's Nikiya has authority and grace. She is confident in her technique, and tackles long, gruelling adagios with ease. She makes those arabesque pirouettes with the ribbon look like a piece of cake! Aleksandar Antonijevic danced Solor with his signature elegance and clean lines. He looked a bit tired, but even so, gave a good performance. The 3 soloists were Heather Ogden, Jennifer Fournier, and Xiao Nan Yu. What a great cast! Yu's variation (the slow one) was especially gorgeous. Even a slow single pirouette looks like a work of art, her retire perfectly placed. It's nice to see Jennifer Fournier back too. Her dancing has a lot of speed and precision (probably from dancing Balanchine!). Her upper body was a bit stiff though. Heather Ogden also gave a strong performance.
My favourite piece of the evening was A Delicate Battle, and judging by the comments I heard around me, it was well-received by the majority of the audience. The ballet deals with themes of suffering and pain, leading to beauty. It is the constant struggle of the artist in modern society. The first part has the dancers in ice blue leotards and socks (?), dancing under a thin canopy as snow falls, to the music of Bach. The steps break in and out of unision. Their dancing is intercepted by men in dark business suits and women in period gowns who dart across the stage, searching. Finally, all the dancers are in a line looking up, and the canopy falls. The second part uses contemporary music by Gavin Bryars, "After the Requiem". 3 couples, the men and women from earlier in suits and gowns, dance in a darker setting. I woman remains in full dress, while another takes off one layer and wears a simple under-dress, and the other strips to a nude leotard- the woman in full dress hurrying to pick up the left-over clothing. Tanya Howard, the 2nd woman, stood out in her pdd with Patick Lavoie. In the last scene, Alejandra Perez-Gomez is alone, still wearing a stiff, blue period gown, making large port de bras movements similar to Leto's in the prologue in Balanchine's Apollo. It's quite powerful.
I don't really like how Kudelka has interpreted the Firebird, but I think it's the ballet that a lot of the audience came for so I won't complain! Even so, the theatre was not full, which was a bit disappointing. Chan Hon Goh and Guillaume Cote were both superb in their dancing. One minor thing I noticed was that the firebird arrived a few seconds before Ivan took out the feather! Rex Harrington was Kastchei the Deathless, revelling in the bad-guy role. As always, he takes full command of the stage. In fact, all the dancers did a wonderful job, I just find the choreography lacks inventiveness and doesn't fill Stravinsky's great score. The running up and down the stairs is also distracting. I didn't like it the first time I saw it, and it was even worse this time because I have seen the Royal Ballet's version (now available on DVD, with Leanne Benjamin and Jonothan Cope) which to me is far superior. When I heard the music, the images and steps from that version kept on coming into my head! Which version does RB perform? I understand that it is one of the closest to the Fokine original? I've also seen Balanchine/Robbins which has some good parts, but I prefer RBs.

#2 Saveta

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Posted 19 November 2002 - 09:13 PM

Thanks for going first Paquita, you always do such a great job!:mad:

I was at the same performance on Saturday night. (It's hard to be critical of dancing when we know that probably most of the dancers were depressed over Marrié's death).
I agree with mostly everything you say. La Bayadere, especially Kingdom of The Shades is (if danced well) the most beautiful ballet for me, so I always love seeing it (and in any production).
The Firebird is too much of everything for me. There are too many colors, too much scenery, costumes are too big and annoying, I practically can't see any dancing at all. On the other hand, as you said it does bring non-regular ballet audiences in, and it's probably commercially necessary to have ballet like that.
The thing that I liked this time though is how Kudelka had changed beginning of the ballet . There are less of L'Apres Midi d'Un Faun/Nijinsky-like movements and Prince Ivan is shaded by those funky creatures. Also, everything somehow seems more cleared out than last time I remember it. I really liked G. Cote's performance and also Piotr Stanczyk's interpretation of Jaguar.
I have mixed feelings about A Delicate Battle. Unlike M. Crabb, I don't have a problem with it's meaning and I loved it visually (especially the effect of the snow and canopy falling down), but somehow it left something to be desired. If I try to pinpoint what exactly I didn't like, It was the neoclassical, Balanchine-looking choreography for the septet of dancers. (I wasn't sure was it suppose to look like Balanchine on purpose or no, but to me it didn't look very inventive choreographically).
I liked dancing of Alejandra Perez-Gomez, Je-An Salas and I agree that the chemistry was fabulous between Lavoie and Tanya Howard. I think that overall shows that Mrozewsky has a great potential as choreographer but he's not there quite yet.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 19 November 2002 - 09:44 PM

You both did great jobs!!! Thanks, Paquita and Saveta. It's so much fun to read such long, detailed reviews -- thank you!

#4 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 19 November 2002 - 11:21 PM

Hi Paquita and Saveta -

I missed you both - I went to the Sunday matinee, trudging through the snow and the Santa Claus Day Parade crowds! (Very funny, that - to see Torontonians lining Front Street in their lawn chairs in the snowfall! Ils sont fous, ces Canadiens ;) )

It's hard to pick apart the program given the extenuating circumstances - what an awful tragedy. I can only go on what I saw, and it had its shaky moments. The cast I saw in La Bayadere looked very exposed by the ballet - with the exception of Rebekah Rimsay in the second Shade solo, none of the principals looked really secure, and the corps looked very good in the entry down the ramp, but they didn't have the strength to sustain the adagio; there were turned-in or falling legs in that infamous ecarte. I've said this before, but regarding male principals the company is thin at the top and what I saw from Ryan Boorne doesn't make it look like he's cut out for heavy-duty classical roles. He has a good look, but there are certain steps you have to be able to nail every time if you're going to be a principal dancer in a national company. I hope it was just a bad day.

I had no real idea what to expect from A Delicate Battle and I thought it was quite promising. Watching it, I felt I could see what Mrozewski had learned from others (including Kudelka, especially the partnering in the second part) and I thought he learned well. Even though I could see the antecedents and influences, it still felt like a fresh voice. I didn't care whether I "got" the meaning of the dance or not, but I did feel the work was a little conceptually diffuse; those dresses with their enormous bustles were simply beautiful and I would have loved to see them more - I wish he hadn't stripped the women out of them so readily. I also would have loved to see them accounted for in the choreography at times - I wanted to see how he thought a woman in a dress like that would dance. Interesting also that the music for Part I is the Ricercata from A Musical Offering by JS Bach used both by Paul Taylor for his own Musical Offering and more to the point, by Balanchine for Episodes. I know that NBoC performed Episodes recently but Mrozewski has also been in and out of the company, so I don't know if he ever saw it.

#5 jer468

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Posted 30 November 2002 - 10:41 AM

I saw the Friday evening bill. Bayadere had a complete cast replacement ... Ogden/Cote in for Hodgkinson/Antonjevic and the soloists were replaced as well. The corps looked splendid. The opening was everything that it should be ... there is nothing worse than the "ghostly spectres" struggling their way down the ramp in a mortal fashion ... last night was beautiful. And I agree that Tina Pereira was stunning.

Ogden and Cote were technically wonderful. My friends commented that she seemed somewhat distant. I don't know if this is her way of conveying the ethereal aspect of Nikiya or if she lacks the ability to connect. I suspect it's the former given that Kudelka has given her some major leads in the story ballets. Cote was a delight. Beautiful jete, ballon. My only criticism is that he makes no effort to stay in character during his bows after the pas or the variations and he was clearly pleased with himself last night. His every variation brought down the house (of course the kids from the school were there so that increased the volume level tenfold).

It was interesting seeing Delicate Battle again, this time 3 nights after seeing Mat's new work for Toronto Dance Theatre. I honestly don't know what to make of it ... It really is two distinct pieces. The choreography is interesting and perhaps it's just me but has a strong Balanchine influence. But you do spend a lot of time scratching your head. I haven't read (or heard) Michael Crabb's review but I understand why the piece would make you uncomfortable. The gowned women are clearly being abused (wives fleeing from their husbands?), and that generally makes me uncomfortable!

And I totally agree with the fairly negative assessments of Firebird. It is really challenging in that the Stravinsky is a difficult piece of music for most audience members but Kudelka has in my estimation just cluttered the piece with a lot of "production" elements (set, costumes etc) that in the end are just irritating. I wonder how the audiences in Houston and NYC (the two co-producing partners) found it. I saw a wonderful Nan Yu with Patrick Lavoie. Stacey Minagawa was really doing yeoman duty because she was part of the Bayadere cast replacement and had already been scheduled to do the other two pieces as well. She too was lovely.

I honestly don't know if story ballets are Kudelka's strength. Apart from Nutcracker, I haven't been overly impressed with his re-working of the classics. He's on record as having said he wants to do the 3 Tchaikovskys before he leaves the National. But I don't know if the company has the money to consider a new Beauty. I think they're still paying for the Nureyev and that's 30 years old. And I don't think that his Swan Lake was such a great investment either (although the critics have raved!).

#6 Paquita

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Posted 30 November 2002 - 03:04 PM

I agree, it seems that Kudelka tries to cover-up for his lack of imagination with glitzy sets and costumes. There is a lot going on at once (infernal dance), but everything is incoherent and detached from one another. I don't think musicality is one of Kudelka's gifts, and so IMO, he should stay away from Stravinsky (please!). The Royal Ballet's Firebird is on sale on DVD at the NBoC ballet boutique, and I can't say enough good things about it! That's how the Firebird should be done.
I also don't think story ballets are Kudelka's forte. He is very literal-have you seen "the contract"? I wonder why he wanted to re-stage the 3 Tchaikovsky ballets. It seems he wants to make everything dark, like he did with Swan Lake. I'd rather see more short ballets like Four Seasons than a 'new, sinister rendition of the classic Sleeping Beauty, redefined in a modern context'. Ugh!
With Swan Lake, as with Firebird, he spent way too much on unnecessary effects (like the mechanic swans in the very beginning). Some critics raved, National Post had to because they sponsored the production. But I remember Globe and Mail's response was quite negative. It's difficult to gauge because at that time, the press was divided between those for and against Kimberly Glasco (who spoke up saying that the company could not afford this new Swan Lake).

#7 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 30 November 2002 - 07:12 PM

By the way, jer468 - I wanted to welcome you to Ballet Talk - we've got a great Toronto contingent here, so there's plenty to talk about locally, but I hope you'll join in the general discussions as well.

Once again, welcome!

#8 jer468

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Posted 01 December 2002 - 06:19 AM

Thanks for the welcome Leigh. I'll try to be a regular visitor but I sometimes forget how many boards I've signed onto!

Jer


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