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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Canadian Thanksgiving - Innovation - Ballet Review

Innovation - National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - ****1/2 (averaged, out of 5 stars)
Watershed - Choreographed by José Navas, Music by Benjamin Britten - *****
Being and Nothingness (Part 1) - Choreographed by Guillaume Côté, Music by Philip Glass - *****
Unearth - Choreographed by Robert Binet, Music by Owen Pallett - ****
...black night's bright day... - Choreographed by James Kudelka, Music by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi - ***1/2
Runs until Nov. 28th 2013

                         

Like one of those chef tasting menus where you realize new exquisite flavours from the simplicity and freshness of basic ingredients, the National Ballet's Innovation program, with four new Canadian works, 3 making their world premieres, is a bountiful and filling assortment of ballet delights. Collectively, the works are another beautiful showcase of the ballet company's versatile and powerful ensemble. Canadian dance has much to be thankful for.

                         

Watershed, choreographed by José Navas, is like a ballet rehearsal beautiful lit by James F. Ingalls that displays the beauty of the corps ensemble and the unity AND individuality of the dancers. There are too many beautiful moments from it's large cast of dancers to specify any individual dancer as everyone does a stunning job here. The piece, that uses Britten's "Four Sea Interludes" from Peter Grimes, uses its simplicity as an asset, creating an emotionally swelling piece despite the lack of any narrative storyline. Navas says he "emphasize the simplicity of a gesture, not just its technical execution, but how one breathes life into it..." and one can feel the breathes emanating from the dancers as part of the piece's life force. An absolutely exquisite dance piece performed with passionate precision by the company.

Being and Nothingness (Part 1) choreographed by principal dancer Guillaume Côté, and danced by Greta Hodgkinson alone with gusto and fury, is a stunning addition to the National Ballet's repertoire. Alone under a pulsating single lightbulb, Hodgkinson jerks and flits in lonely despair to Philip Glass' "Metamorphosis I-V (4th Movement)" and it's heartbreaking and hypnotic. With a title that suggests there will be a part 2, it only suggests more exciting things to come from Côté the choreographer and not just the dancer.

                         

Unearth is a strange and seductive dance piece, with 14 dancers, a mix of principals and corps, showing the amount of talent from all levels of the company. Like aliens on a space mission, or even music and gold reflective costumes that evoke a lost episode of the original Star Trek show, the 14 dancers move about in odd jerky movements in between moments of smooth tranquility, odd body contortions in unison that look perfectly balanced. Against a giant white rock, evoking some distant planet surface, or even Ayers Rock, a grander presence amongst the range of dancers, dancers of different sizes and shapes, Binet's piece is a strange but satisfying composition that feels mystical and out of this world.

                         

... black night's bright day... feels mythological, with mini "stories" and moments with solos, duets and groups that evoke some sort of simple but grandiose tale. James Kudelka's piece has an abundance of beautiful and evocative moments, with haunting images that may have too much for clarity for this one piece, but when it works, it's a beautiful showcase for the company. With great solos by Piotr Stanczyk, Guillaume Côté, and Heather Ogden, and a beautiful debut by guest artist Svetlana Lunkina (from the Bolshoi Ballet), here paired with Côté, it's an embarrassment of riches that might work more with less, but when it also gets to showcase corps members like a captivating Lise-Marie Jourdain against company stars Ogden, McGee Maddox, Robert Stephen and Chelsy Meiss, one can forgive minor misgivings like that.


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