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Friday, June 15, 2012

Gotta Dance - Chroma and Singin' in the Rain - Dance Reviews

ChromaSong of a Wayfarer Elite Syncopations - National Ballet of Canada at Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - **** (avg. out of 5 stars)
Chroma - Choreographed by Wayne McGregor, Music by Joby Talbot and Jack White III - ****1/2
Song of a Wayfarer - Choreographed by Maurice Béjart, Music by Gustav Mahler - ****1/2
Elite Syncopations - Choreographed by Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Music by Scott Joplin and Others - ***1/2
Runs until June 17th 2012 

Singin' in the Rain - Palace Theatre - London, UK - **** (out of 5 stars)
Songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, Based on the MGM film with screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Directed by Jonathan Church, Choreographed by Andrew Wright 


Chroma returns only two years after its National Ballet of Canada debut, but since I missed it the first time, this quick turnaround programming seems like it's made for me (thank you Karen Kain!)! Put together with two other short classics (that I also had not seen yet, thank you AGAIN Karen Kain!), and the night was a further stellar example of the quality within the NBofC's company of dancers, showing off both the Principal stars they have, as well as some of they future stars they have within their Corps. 

Elite Syncopations opens the night on a bare stage with backstage in full view, a band already there on stage ready to rag, and some chairs on the side. I guess Chicago's revival got their stage inspiration from this? Dancers perform as if it were an audition, as couples and groups come out to showcase their stuff. I guess A Chorus Line got their inspiration from this 1974 piece? The music by Scott Joplin or other ragtime music sets a different beat for the dancers that choreographer MacMillan used to form quirky and whimsical movements. The dancing is fun and with the audition framing device, we get to see different dancers showcase their humourous side within their dance skills. 


But it's the costumes that set this piece apart from anything I've seen in ballet so far. With skintight painted spandex by Ian Spurling, it looks straight out of a 70's costume party on acid, and it adds a LSD-induced haze over the proceedings, giving Elite Syncopations a fascinating nostalgic, historical context that makes the whimsical dancing and tone a lot more fun to watch.

The company looks like they're having a lot of fun with this comical ballet, with McGee Maddox offering another buff and slightly pompous suitor to Xiao Nan Yu's elegant, but sly vixen. Both are at the top of their games, with exceptional precision in such a fluid and fancy-free choreography. Jordana Daumec divas it up with a sensational rag dance, while Brett van Sickle is a gem that I haven't seen in a while, and glad that I've gotten to see him again. Christopher Stalzer proves why he just got promoted out of the Corps, and is absolutely smashing with Adji Cissoko in their pairing.


Song of a Wayfarer on the other hand, is a showcase for just two dancers. On opening night, Principals Zdenek Konvalina and Guillaume Côté shows us why they're Principals. I don't think I've ever seen Konvalina be better, in a role that he seems built for. A mix of intensity and internal struggle with a physically exhausting choregraphy by Maurice Béjart. As Konvalina's shaddow of sorts, Côté's leading man persona makes a surprisingly haunting body double, haunting Konvalina as Côté himself moves about in equal precision and demanding movements. It's quite a sight to behold, as the two leading men go in philosophical search, all to Mahler's beautiful music, sung by Peter Barrett.

Chroma opens with a stark white set, with rounded corners, a slit for light, and an open frame in the back, and even in its modern simplicity, exudes gasps from the audiences. With music by The White Stripes, Wayne McGregor has created another one of those crazy weird modern pieces that I have no idea what it's trying to say, but damn if it doesn't look exciting, amazing and emotionally gripping. With simple short "dresses" worn by its cast of 10 (6 Men, 4 Women) by Moritz Junge, Chroma is often strange, always thrilling, and while it isn't as emotionally gripping as some other modern pieces I have loved (like Crystal Pite's Emergence, returning next season!), the dancing and movement is superb and again, another perfect showcase to the talented dancers of the company. 


With a mix from the whole company, Principals Aleksandar Antonijevic, Greta Hodgkinson, Sonia Rodriguez and Zdenek Konvalina are magnificent. Antonijevic, Rodriguez and Hodgkinson seem to relish this opportunity with McGregor's movements and intermix as part of the ensemble. Elena Lobsonova continues her track to stardom, while Tina Pereira and Jonathan Renna are superb as always. 


Then there is a moment when Corps members Dylan Tedaldi, Brendan Saye, and Second Soloist Robert Stephen are dancing together and the excitement on stage is exactly what the future of National Ballet of Canada is about. Thrilling to see the amazing future ahead for the young members of the company and what the sensational work they are already displaying right now.



Over in London, England, a Chichester Festival transfer of Singin' in the Rain has just opened at the Palace Theatre and is taking the West End by storm. Or more like light rain. And sometimes light is a good thing. This revival of the stage adaptation of the famed film is delightfully light and frothy and just the sort of nostalgic entertainment sometimes one needs on a ... rainy day. 


While the production is somewhat uneven, its delights easily wash away the flaws, especially with some spectacular dancing sequences including "Make 'em Laugh" and title song "Singin' in the Rain", done in full rain effect with lead Adam Cooper's Don Lockwood splish splashing in the pool of water gathered on stage and kicking it out into the audience. 


Adam Cooper, who I know as the older Billy Elliot (in the final sequence of the film) and lead in Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, is a terrific lead with vocal chops that match his amazing dance skills. Paired up with Daniel Crossley's Cosmo Brown, the duo form a wonderful bromance on stage and forms the heart of the show. Crossley tends to overplay and oversell the lines here and yet it seems to work perfectly for his Cosmo of that era, and makes his performance highly entertaining and lovable. His maneuvering through "Make 'em Laugh" is incredible to see, live, on stage, and Crossley crackles every time he's on stage. 

Katherine Kingsley crackles and cackles on stage too, but as the annoying Lina Lemont. But with Kingsley in the role, Lina is deliciously awful and sinfully wonderful. A nemesis we adore and adore to hate, with Kingsley squeeing and squawking each line to full comedic effect. 


Scarlett Strallen has a wonderous voice that soars in the shows classic Hollywood musical songs of yesteryears. She's a bit too winsome at times, but ultimately Strallen is a doll.


The show could cut and smooth over bits and pieces here and there, with some moments stretching on just a tad too long, but as soon as any dance number starts, the terrific dance ensemble brightens up the stage (cleverly designed by Simon Higlett). Definitely a show that can easily brighten up your rainy day.



Photos of Chroma (with Antonijevic and Rodriguez) and Elite Syncopations by Bruce Zinger. Photos of Chroma (with Stephen and Pereira) and Songs of a Wayfarer by Cylla von Tiedmann

Photos of Singin' in the Rain by Manuel Harlan 
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