“La Fille mal gardée”
National Ballet of Canada
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
February 29, 2012
by Denise Sum
copyright 2012 by Denise Sum
The perfect remedy for the winter blues, “La Fille mal gardée” entertained and delighted on opening night on a slushy Toronto day. Returning after a 10 year hiatus, Sir Frederick Ashton’s lovely pastoral comedy has been a touchstone for NBoC artists since it entered the company repertoire in 1976. This run of performances of “La Fille mal gardée” has been dedicated to the man responsible for bringing this ballet to Toronto, former NBoC Artistic Director Alexander Grant.
Ashton’s use of props is inventive rather than gimmicky, as is more often the case. The ribbon motif is charming. The ribbon constantly reappears in different guises. Lise and Colas play cat’s cradle with it before using it to mimic a horse’s reins, and the village girls skip across the stage in formation, twirling ribbons to give the impression of wagon wheels. It feels like an old-fashioned version of the props game on “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” Another creative segment is when Lise is locked inside the farmhouse. Colas partners her from outside through a small window above the door. He lifts her, turns her and sway her side to side in one of the ballet’s most sweetly tender moments.
As Lise, Sonia Rodriguez was playful and carefree. She sailed through the technical challenges of the choreography, including some spectacular balances during the Maypole Dance. If this is any indication, her Rose Adagio next week as the company performs “Sleeping Beauty” will be very strong. From delicate hops en pointe to grand allegro, she made everything look effortless. But beyond technique, her dancing had heart. Whether embracing her mother or blowing kisses to Colas, her affection for both of them was palpable. Still, she was not afraid to let go of being pretty for moments of slapstick humour, such as bumping down the stairs or toppling unsteadily in a dance of febrile delirium. Her bliss during the final pas de deux with Colas is heartwarming. Her feet barely touch the floor.
Her Colas was Piotr Stanczyk who was a secure partner and brought the appropriate zest to the role. He started off a little shaky. In his first variation, he seemed to cut corners with under-rotated turns and laboured preparations before jumps. However, he appeared more confident as the ballet progressed.
Choreographer and former NBoC dancer, Matjash Mrozewski, returned to the stage as Widow Simone. He does not bring the added physical humour of a taller, lankier dancer but his wit and comic instinct more than made up for it. He stole the show with the hilarious clog dance and did not hold back on the buffoonery. As Alain, a young corps member from California, Skylar Campbell, made a wonderful debut. Tragically maladroit and hopelessly unaware, his Alain was simply endearing. The corps were in fine form and captured the naturalistic style perfectly.
Piotr Stancyzk in "La Fille mal gardee". Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.