"Pur ti Miro", "No. 24", "The Man in Black", and "Theme and Variations"
The National Ballet of Canada
Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
June 19, 2013
By Denise Sum
Copyright © by Denise Sum 2013
The mixed program which closed the National Ballet of Canada's 2012-2013 season was a great success. The four short pieces showed the best of the company and left the audience wanting more. Karen Kain's interesting programming took the viewer on a journey from tutus to cowboy boots and back, with a mix of both homegrown talent and choreographers from abroad.
Next was "No. 24", named for its musical accompaniment -- Paganini's Caprice No. 24 in A minor. This virtuoso pas de deux was created by Guillaume Côté for the NBoC Choreographic Workshop in 2010 and won third prize in the Ballet Society Hanover's 25th International Competition in 2011. Here, it was aptly danced by Elena Lobsanova and Keiichi Hirano who were joined on stage by violinist Benjamin Bowman. Côté, who has just been named Choreographic Associate for the upcoming 2013-2014 season, is developing a promising voice and confidence in his choreographic work. His training in music and composition is evident in steps that are attuned to colours and nuance in the music. He also brings a dancer's perspective to his choreography. No. 24 is not just beautiful to watch, it also looks like it would be exhilerating to perform with the variety of movements from sweeping grand allegro to intricately detailed port de bras. It's a minimalist work without flashy sets or gimmicky props, but manages to hold the audiences attention with bold, expressive dancing.
Switching gears completely, the next work was one from former artistic director James Kudelka. "The Man in Black" was created in 2010 for BalletMet Columbus. It is a series of contemplative dances for 3 men and 1 woman set to Johnny Cash covers of well-known songs like Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind", Trent Reznor's "Hurt", and Bruce Springsteen's "Further On (Up the Road)". The dancers wear simple but stylish Western-inspired outfits and cowboy boots by Canadian design duo Jim Searle and Chris Tyrell of Hoax Couture. Together, they narrate different stories behind each song, their gestures often reflecting lyrics sung by Cash's haunting voice without being too literal. The dances are thematically similar yet distinct enough that they do not blur into one. In one, a couple slow dances, swaying side to side. In another, the group bounces gently on their heels mimicing a horse's trot. In yet another, each member of the group has his or her limbs manipulated by the others like a marionette. Elements of line dancing are also intertwined. The four dancers were well cast and formed a cohesive whole, seamlessly coming together (often with hands linked in a chain) and separating in turn. Rebekah Rimsay was especially expressive and the style suited her well. Since being promoted to Principal Character Artist, she has not performed in too many dancing roles, so it was nice to see her shine in "The Man in Black".
The finale for the evening was George Balanchine's timelessly beautiful "Theme and Variations". Guillaume Côté and Greta Hodgkinson led the troupe with grace and aplomb. The leading roles are very technically challenging and neither was flawless, but experience showed in how they recovered from minor bobbles. Both know how to finish a phrase with finesse, putting an exclamation mark on the end of a series of turns. They were supported by a strong corps on both the women's and men's side. The momentum built up to a grand polonaise, a fitting and exhuberant end to a wonderful evening and season for the company.
Elena Lobsanova and Keiichi Hirano in "No. 24" by Aleksandar Antonijevic.
Piotr Stanczyk, James Leja, Rebekah Rimsay, and Robert Stephen in "The Man in Black" by Cylla von Tiedemann.
Guillaume Côté with Brett van Sickle, Etienne Lavigne, Keiichi Hirano and Giorgio Galli in "Theme and Variations" by Cylla von Tiedemann.