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National Ballet of Canada 2021-2022 season

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This morning I received a questionnaire from the National Ballet of Canada. They say quite clearly that they expect to start performing in their Toronto theater in November 2021, and they asked about several things. Would we feel comfortable if they required masks? distancing? sanitation? etc. I don't see anything on their web page yet, except that they will return for the 2021-22 season when it's safe.

One problem right now is that travelers from the US are still banned. I'm supposed to go to a meeting in Montreal in November and friends there say they are desperate to make enough progress that we can be admitted. I have my vaccinations and expect to be wearing masks for the indefinite future. I am hoping they figure out the vaccination passport soon to make international travel a bit more feasible. With the right programming, I'd be delighted to travel to Toronto. I saw them in that theater a few years ago and it's a great city to visit.


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official announcement of 2021-22 Season


Sharing the Stage
A Residency at Harbourfront Centre

August 9 – 29, 2021


Angels' Atlas & Serenade

November 11 — 21, 2021


The Nutcracker

Performance schedule to be announced.


A Streetcar Named Desire

March 2 — 6, 2022


The Sleeping Beauty

March 11 — 20, 2022


Elite Syncopations with New Work by Alysa Pires & New Work by Siphesihle November & After the Rain

March 23 — 27, 2022


Swan Lake

June 10 — 26, 2022

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The National Ballet of Canada has announced preliminary casting for Swan Lake, albeit no dates yet.

The pairs include:

Jurgita Dronina and Harrison James (notable, because Dronina was never cast in the Kudelka version)

Svetlana Lunkina and Brendan Saye

Heather Ogden and Ben Rudisin (which, I think, marks the first time he is dancing a leading man)

Tina Pereira and Naoya Ebe

guest artist Maria Kochetkova and Siphesihle November (because he needs a very small partner)

Genevieve Penn Nabity and Christopher Gerty (and I do hope his grand allegro has improved since he last danced this role)


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Casting for Swan Lake

June 10 - Dronina, James, Hack
11 mat - Lunkina, Saye, Sato
11 eve - Ogden, Rudisin, Hack
12 - Dronina, James, Hack

16 - Lunkina, Saye, Sato
17 - Dronina, James, Hack
18 mat - Kochetkova, November, Bertinshaw
18 eve - Ogden, Rudisin, Hack
19 - Nabity, Gerty, Rudisin

22 - Kochetkova, November, Bertinshaw
23 mat - Ogden, Rudisin, Hack
23 eve - Pereira, Ebe, Sato
24 - Nabity, Gerty, Rudisin
25 mat - Pereira, Ebe, Sato
25 eve - Kochetkova, November, Bertinshaw
26 - Nabity, Gerty, Rudisin


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Seats are selling out fast and looks like it will be sold out by opening night.   Hoping this will be a great production for Kain's sake - she's poured so much of herself into this production.   Getting excited for opening night....

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The audience has spent two years waiting for this production, so I'm not surprised by the pent-up demand.

Since this production features a male Rothbart, Kain clearly isn't following Bruhn all that closely. 

What really worries me are the designs, because what I've seen on the promotional videos is hideous - the most nauseating kitsch. :icon8: I hope they will look less awful under the lighting. Because lord knows, ballet productions have been lit really dimly for several decades now.

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More complete casting has been posted, including Benno and Siegfried's sisters: Celia (as in company founder Celia Franca) and Elizabeth (as in school founder Betty Oliphant). Kain is emphasizing the humanity of Odette and her companions, hence there are leading women rather than big swans and young women rather than cygnets. (This is in contrast to the previous production by James "More Swan!" Kudelka, in which Odette was not an enchanted maiden at all, but a bird.) This approach should suit Svetlana Lunkina especially well, since it's the one she takes when given the choice.

There is a "French dance" rather than a mazurka. (Is there something wrong with a "Polish dance"?) The soloists of the national dances are all women, so presumably these are the prospective fiancees.

From the old Bruhn production Kain is keeping the Black Swan adage set to the same music used by Burmeister, Nureyev in Vienna and by Balanchine in the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, and Odile's variation, again to the same music as used by Burmeister, Nureyev in Vienna and Grigorovich.


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I watched this twice and am still left puzzled. Who’s version this is I still don’t know. The set and costume design looks not to my taste. It seems no one I have spoken to is quite sure what to expect though this is likely what happens when a new production is shared between a large group of people (who are each deriving from a wide range of sources). I am feeling a little uneasy about attending the premiere tomorrow.

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We went opening night. In all honesty, there isn’t much to say. The most positive was the orchestra who sounded great. Other then that it was crowded, messy, often confusing mishmash of scenes with the dancers trying their best to make it through. 

volcanubunter, your instincts proved correct. The design was kitsch and nauseating with tutus that seemed enormous and sets that somehow made all the dancers look miniature. Also, I do not understand why they chose not to use tights for the dancers.

There were a few major partnering issues but that could be because it was opening and they needed more time to rehearse.

It was difficult to follow the story as there were so many characters and many dancers on stage at once. The patterns were often busy but somehow difficult to follow. The patterns of the dancers is my favorite part to watch especially when sitting in the balcony. 

The theatre looked quite full which I imagine is usual for an opening. My companions and I went for a post-show chat and happened to be seated to another group who had also attended (and who it turned out were much more ballet educated than us). We got to talking and they described it as a show that was stitched together by a committee. I nearly spat out my tiramisu. 



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I went to the first two performances.

I hated ACT III which was messy and vulgar both in choreography and design. The choreography of ACT IV did not respond to the music properly so it fell flat. I remember the goose bumps from the same music with Balanchine's choreography at the end.

However, ACT I was okay. Although I could not tell who is who at first, the pattern was pretty and playful. ACT II was traditional overall. NBC corps did not look its best dancing white swans, as expected.

Although I was disappointed after the premiere night danced by Dronina and James, the second performance by Lunkina and Saye was breathtaking. I gave up much on the corps with a side seat and focused on the main pdds. Lunkina made the story real with layered acting and effortless steps. At least the new choreography did not mess up the main pdds too much.

I will go back for more NBC's Swan Lakes  if the cast interests me. 

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I was there opening night and have another five shows to see.   There was much to like and a few things I didn't - but that's usual.   Since my father took me to see Margot Fonteyn in Swan Lake when I was eight years old, I've seen countless productions - both domestic and international - and none have been completely satisfying.   So I approached Kain's version with a  "wait and see" attitude.     

I  liked Act I.   I liked that the dancers had opportunities to show different personalities with the various little vignettes.  It was much more interesting to watch instead of the usual group dances.   The men really shined in this - they were terrific.  The costumes were fine, not over the top.   Good start.   It's curious, but it never occurred to me before that all the "lake" scenes happen when the swans are woman,  but the corps traditionally remain as swans in interpretation.    So it is in Act II that Kain's vision for this story actually begins.   I was watching to see if there was truly a difference  - did they seem more human then in other productions I've seen.   On first viewing I didn't get much of a difference but I'll watch more closely during the next shows.   I loved Jurgita Dronina's dancing in this act.   Her line was so clear, clean and pure.  Not an ugly shape anywhere - except of course when Harrison James almost dropped her in act IV!     Act III was marred, almost beyond redemption, by the costumes.   The Masquerade costumes were gaudy, over the top awful  -  the Queen's reminded me of a Carol Burnett skit where she's dressed up as Scarlette O'Hara in a green velvet curtain rod with acres of gold fringe!  But then has anyone ever seen a tasteful Masquerade outfit?  But like other productions where I've hated the costuming I'll learn to ignore it and concentrate on the dancing.  And here there were no complaints.   I particularly liked the Russian and Spanish dances.    So happy to have Bruhn's Black Swan pdd back.   Dronina fell out of her fouette en tournant but she's so strong technically she was back on track in an instant.   It would have been a disaster for most dancers.   In Act IV I finally began to see what Kain was trying to do as there was much more interaction between Odette and the woman as they comforted her and helped her shield Siegfried.   But it was soooo busy on stage it became hard to concentrate on the action.    I was watching the corps and then Odette and Rothbart and then the Prince.   Dizzy!    The ending was a tearjerker of course, it always is.    I'm hoping to sort all this out with more viewings.

One major problem on Friday night was the audience, it was dead!  Perhaps too many invited "special" guests with no real interest what they were seeing.  There was some spectacular dancing on stage but the applause barely lasted long enough to make it through a bow.   I was sitting in a group of ballet fans and we did our best to cheer and yell and show our appreciation of the dancers but it was hard going.

I see Lunkina on Thursday night and, as a friend who saw her Saturday told me, I'm in for a treat.   The next five shows are going to be very interesting.

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Svetlana embodies the Swan like no other in this particular company. She is making the best of this version as she possibly can. In fact, all the dancers are. Isn’t that all they can do? I was also at the opening and can attest to the tepid applause.

There is a lot riding on this production. There are not many brave enough to admit it doesn’t work.

Kudos and highest admiration for those brave enough to admit it isn’t good enough. Even more respect to those who publicly demand better. 



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I asked about the bare legs. The company wanted the women to wear tights that matched their skin tones. However, since the wardrobe department couldn't find satisfactory matches, they were forced to go without. So despite the supposed feminist credentials of the production, the women ended up even more naked than usual. It looked bizarre, like an Ivanov/Ek mash-up. The corps men, meanwhile, wore identical stone-colored tights.

The ballet begins with a dimly lit prologue, as Odette and three friends are assaulted by Rothbart, although there is no indication of a spell or transformation.

I don't like to describe a production by talking about its designs, but these are awful: saccharine and gaudy. Yolanda Sonnabend in Disneyland. In childhood some of my girlfriends had white poster beds with ruffled gauzy pink canopies. Act 1 looked like that, albeit in shades of lilac and lavender.

Siegfried, oddly, makes his entrance to the most muted part of the music. The waltz (choreographed by Robert Binet, if I understood correctly) is frenetic and cluttered. Busy, busy, busy; frantic, frantic, frantic, like the grand allegro part of class on steroids. Except for a couple of bars toward the end, the ensemble doesn't dance together. It was exhausting to watch, though I admired Isaac Wright in particular. I'll say this: when I watched it a second time from the side orchestra, the group furthest downstage would obscure groups behind, so it seemed less frazzled simply because some of the choreography wasn't visible.

Accompanied by a hunting party, the Queen arrives with crossbow for Siegfried and instructions to take a wife, as usual. In order to dance the pas de trois, Benno and Siegfried's sisters don additional lilac feathers. (Why?!) The text is pretty much traditional, except for Benno's variation, which is set to the music Ashton used in his pas de quatre for the mens' variation. I don't remember the Bruhn production well enough to recall whether this variation came from there. I was sorry that the massive, ballooning skirt overwhelmed the batterie of the first variation. Also, the sisters' tiny tiaras looked out of proportion to everything else on stage. The little dance for the Queen's lady in waiting and Siegfried's tutor avoids the worst of ballet's hackneyed jokes about older people.

The final polonaise is better than the waltz. Bruhn's melancholy solo for Siegfried follows. The tutor suggests Siegfried cheer himself up by going hunting, although why someone in the late 19th century would do it with a crossbow is a mystery.

Act 2 is pretty much intact. The inky backdrop suggests a snowy valley on the other side of the lake, which confused me. We just saw a stage full of bare-legged women at the birthday party. Odette's mime is excluded, but her request that Siegfried not shoot her companions and his reply remain. The swans' entrance varies a bit: chugs for theme A and temps levés for theme B. Despite some odd rhythms, the production restores a traditional cygnet quartet, without Kudelka's unfortunate bourrées and pinwheel effects. The tutus are bulky, and there's the matter of the naked legs, but this is not enough to ruin it. Both Jurgita Dronina and Svetlana Lunkina were ravishing. During Lunkina's adage in particular you could hear a pin drop, and her coda is just about the best I have seen. (This is the fourth production of Swan Lake in which I've seen her.)

Act 3 is awful. It looks like a novelty store knockoff of the Venetian carnival. One of the supers is dressed like a unicorn. A unicorn! On the first night the queen nearly stumbled down the stairs in her enormous, encrusted, gold lamé skirt. There is a trio for Benno and the sisters to the Dance of the Clowns. Boring (uncut) music, boring choreography (by Christopher Stowell, I think), the sisters' skirts seem to have be mauled by attack dogs, and Benno's outfit appears to have been taken from Elton John's wardrobe. The prince gets to ditch his glittery mask almost immediately, but it doesn't make for a particularly dignified entrance. The waltz of the fiancées is a dance for six couples, during which each of the four candidates appears only briefly behind a mask, so there isn't even a semblance of interaction before Siegfried is asked to make his choice. Each woman briefly reveals her face to him as she curtsies in the inspection line, but that's it. Odile, wearing a mask that imitates Natalie Portman's eye makeup in Black Swan, and Rothbart, looking like a villain out of Pirates of the Caribbean, make their entrance and quickly run off.

The rejected candidates then present their dances, although Siegfried stays for only two-thirds of the first one, a Russian dance by a soloist and two demi-soloist women in Disney princess dresses. Genevieve Penn Nabity danced it with striking rapture, but it fell flat without her. The Neapolitan dance is probably the worst constructed, because in the unison allegro finale the soloist ends up completely overshadowed by her two male companions, who jump higher and whose commedia dell'arte costumes are louder. (Really, really loud.) There is no csárdás or mazurka. Instead there is a "French" dance for four women in large powdered wigs to the music Ashton used for the entrée of his pas de quatre. I think the choreographer was aiming for something like Balanchine's marzipans, but the counterpoint was insufficient and the costumes too similar to distinguish the soloist from the other three. Tina Pereira was genuinely fetching, but without her all four women had equal weight. Finally there is a Spanish dance for a soloist and two couples, with entirely typical choreography. The demi-soloist women have flashier dresses, but the soloist is distinguished by the enormous red flower she is forced to wear above her forehead.

The Black Swan pas de deux uses Bruhn's adage and variation for Odile to alternate music, and the traditional Siegfried variation and coda. This is the only choreography in the act that isn't immediately forgettable. I thought Dronina in particular sailed through the balances and tricky changes in position of the adage. During her opening-night fouettés she seemed on the verge of losing her balance half way through, but she crunched down on her ankle and somehow stayed on pointe to keep going.

Siegfried proposes marriage, the deception is revealed, Rothbart and Odile run under a giant piece of dark silk, from under which Rothbart reemerges in his lakeside appearance and then a frantic Odette. (Not sure about the logic of that one.)

Act 4 is a relief in comparison, although Siegfried's entrance is a poor use of the magnificent music, and at the end of it he kneels down before Rothbart, not Odette. (Huh?) I dislike the insertion of a reconciliation duet, because it slams the brakes down hard on the momentum of the music. (It's one thing I appreciated about the old Grigorovich production.) But as far as reconciliation duets go, Bruhn's is better than most in that it alludes to Act 2 - Odette's entrance and the adage. Both Dronina and Lunkina were heartbreaking.

In the final scene the choreography doesn't do a particularly effective job of using the swan corps to evoke turbulent waves, although I admired the commitment of Chelsy Meiss and Connor Hamilton. On opening night there was a partnering disaster when Harrison James failed to lower Dronina from an overhead lift into an arabesque, so she ended up slumped on the ground. Fortunately, she was okay, and this wasn't repeated at their next performance. Since 1967 NBoC productions of Swan Lake have ended with Odette mourning over a drowned Siegfried, and that bleak tradition continues.

Overall, it is an improvement over the previous production, but it's not great. At least there isn't overt misogyny anymore, or excessive tinkering with canonical choreography, or a man's absurd infatuation with a bird. But unfortunately the rot and dinge of Kudelka's production has been replaced with the tacky sap of Kain's. At the opening performance there were posted notices that the performance was being filmed for a documentary (so whoever didn't want to appear in it was advised to steer clear of the cameras). When Kain emerged for her bow, there was a cameraman in her face, his back to the audience and surely blocking the view of many. (He couldn't have stood in the wings? They couldn't have filmed this from a side ring?) It left an unpleasant feeling that film, not ballet, was what the evening was all about, as though the appearance of triumph was more important than an actual success.

P.S. If the company wants to adopt a policy of tights to match each dancer's skin tone, that's fine, but then it actually has to supply them. Standard shades are only approximations, and it turns out they don't actually match anyone's skin. And if dancers are applying makeup to their shoes (which didn't really work for those whose skin is paler than the peach satin), they should also think about what to do with the off-white canvas that remains after they've cut off the satin from the platform.

Edited by volcanohunter
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Thank you volcanohunter for such a descriptive review. I agree with much of what you say. I went to a second show and saw much of what you describe above. You make a very good points about the tights/shoes situation. 

Also, Rosie2, to your point about lukewarm audience responses, I couldn’t help but “lol” at my work desk today when an email came from the ballet. It included the following: 

Audiences are on their feet showering the artists with bravos at every performance of Swan Lake! This stunning new production, staged and directed by Artistic Director Emerita Karen Kain, is onstage until June 26 only.”

Sometimes it feels like The Nboc is living in an alternate universe that is completely divorced from reality. Has anyone seen Black Mirror? 

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Tepid applause followed by a standing ovation (which ends the second the house lights come up) is a fairly typical response to a performance in Canada. :wink: It's true that the audience in the third ring, where I watched the first show, and in the orchestra, where I watched the second, did stand and applaud at the end. But it's possible the disappointing design elements were dampening audience response during the performance. It was hard to look at the stage and think that 3.5 million dollars had been well spent. :(

Edited by volcanohunter
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3.5 million dollars??!!!

The Act 1 waltz, the entire Act 3, not to mention the entire design of the show… is just not the quality that… one would expect for that amount of money (or the level of quality one would hope from a national company). I am quite shocked by this and genuinely wonder with if the love for and history of Bruhn’s production (and it seems most who have seen these recent performance admit the “Bruhn” parts are the strongest…) why not just remount the Bruhn version? 


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Bruhn's version was controversial at the time, with the hero unable to withstand the psychological pressure from all the women in his life. (From his mother, from the two swans. Rothbart was a woman; Benno was a woman. Oddly enough, the tutor was a man.) In The Ballet Goer's Guide published in 1981, Mary Clarke and Clement Crisp wrote, "This version is largely rechoreograpged and suffers thereby."

No doubt Kain was attached to Bruhn's version because she spent her entire career dancing it. Just like former POB étoiles tend to be attached to Nureyev's productions, despite their peculiarities. But she may have felt uncomfortable with the gynophobic slant of Bruhn's interpretation. Though unlike Kudelka's production which followed, Bruhn didn't include a gang rape or turn the presentation of Siegfried's potential fiancées into a borderline slave market.

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Interesting. It sounds like both previous productions were controversial for different reasons. If I understand you correctly, the Bruhn version meant the most to Karen essentially because she danced it but wanted to part with the more controversial aspects.

I suppose every production will be controversial in some way. Here is to hoping one day Canada will have a Swan Lake all can feel proud of.

I am curious to ask, of all the productions of Swan Lake today, which one might fit in Canada the best? In other words, what particular production do you think is a strong one?

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Like Rosie2, I have never seen a completely satisfying Swan Lake, certainly not in Canada. The only other longstanding production is the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's from 1987, which is a Soviet-style staging with jester and happy ending, both of which are hateful to me. It looks nice, but it's not a large company, so even reinforced by the school (heck, so is the National Ballet's corps), it's bare bones. Les Grands Ballets Canadiens hasn't done it in many years, but has imported several companies from overseas to perform their productions in Montreal. For now, at least, Covid seems to have put an end to that practice. 

Edited by volcanohunter
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Genevieve Penn Nabity, who joined the National Ballet of Canada just four years ago, has been promoted to principal dancer, leapfrogging over the rank of first soloist.

Christopher Gerty (class of 2014) has been promoted to first soloist, Selene Guerrero-Trujillo (class of 2007) and Tirion Law (previously with the Hong Kong Ballet) to second soloist. 

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On 6/24/2022 at 1:05 PM, PeggyTulle said:

Did anyone catch Maria Kochetkova's shows?

Maria Kotchetkova was sweet and gentle as Odette, a similar approach as Jurgita Dronina. She had great musicality and footwork to make up for the disadvantage of short lines. I found Maria's sweetness did not make ACT II sophisticated enough. (I preferred Lunkina's performance which was multilayered with sadness, attraction, fear and love.) Siphesihle November's natural acting also pulled her leg. However, ACT IV was good since the sadness was more dominant in this part.

The highlight was her Black Swan pdd, as expected. She was enchanting with quick and clear footwork. She had the fastest variation and coda which excited the whole audience. Brilliant foettes with little movement on pointe.

I hope Maria can guest more at NBoC in the future, like in Romeo & Juliet. 

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14 hours ago, volcanohunter said:


Genevieve Penn Nabity, who joined the National Ballet of Canada just four years ago, has been promoted to principal dancer, leapfrogging over the rank of first soloist.


Congratulations on the promotions!
Sadly, I guess she will not stay on the roster for more than three seasons, as she said “I want to get out of North America and dance with every major company in the world. “

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