Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dance Wars - The Fiddle and the Drum, Etudes & Other Dances - Ballet Review

The Fiddle and The Drum & Etudes & the second detail & Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan - The National Ballet of Canada with guests The Alberta Ballet - The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON

The National Ballet of Canada ends its terrifically eclectic and modern 2007/2008 season with another hodgepodge of shorter works. the second detail starts the show in a really quirky modern piece (think abstract contemporary) that reminded me a bit of Glass Pieces that opened the season. Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan was principal dancer Jennifer Fournier's final solo before retirement. Etudes was a terrifically simple modern piece that turns ballet lessons and a study on the basic ballet movements into an awesome display of the talents within The National Ballet of Canada.

Finally, the final piece The Fiddle and The Drum is a new Canadian piece performed and created by The Alberta Ballet choreographed by Jean Grand-Maître in association with Joni Mitchell who provides the music (with two new songs written specifically for the piece) and who also provided the projections that become the set design.

The Fiddle and The Drum is simply magnificent, with the most brilliant choreography by Grand-Maître that evokes soldiers in battle against music programmed by Joni Mitchell. While I didn't recognize some of the songs, they make for surprisingly great music for the dancers to dance to. I never realised Alberta had their own ballet company but the dancers are simply terrific and although they don't have the same technical training it seems as the NBC, they are nonetheless supremely talented with a more contemporary freestyle feel (to SYTYCD fans, think Mia Michael's stuff, and by the way, if you ARE So You Think You Can Dance fans, you should TOTALLY check out the ballet if you haven't already! It may surprise you at how similar some of those contemporary routines are and you may, like me, just fall in love with the ballet).

It's simply an incredible choreography danced with huge enthusiasm by The Alberta Ballet company (um, some shameless favorites below at the end of the post) with an amusing ending danced to "Big Yellow Taxi" for an encore that is both entertaining and thought provoking.

Let's not forget about the awesome company of The National Ballet of Canada which showed its best in Etudes (Choreography by Harald Lander, Music by Carl Czerny arranged by Knudage Riisäger) where groups of ballerinas in black tutus dance against ballerinas in white tutus against the male ballerinas who show supreme agility and strength.

On a side TV note, it's interesting to note that there never has really been a ballerina make it far on SYTYCD and I think sometimes Nigel dislikes the non-manliness of the male dancers and I remember him mentioning this to the ballet dancers before, but I'd like to note at how manly many of the male dancers in the NBC company. Just watch Noah Long walk.

Nehemiah Kish, Piotr Stanczyk and the other guys are AMAZING when they kept scissoring their legs as they jump up in the air (uh, sorry, I don't know the technical terms). All the girls (and there are too many to name or figure out who is who) are terrific though Heather Ogden proves why she's a principal dancer as the prima ballerina. (Though leads rotate from performance to performance)

Simply awesome in skill and artistry and it's a nice breakdown of basics that still feels like an artistic and whole performance. Though I got a little dizzy watching Kish and the others spin around and around and around. Amazing. But dizzy!

Speaking of which, Kish, Martin Lindinger (so good in Rooster), Aleksandar Antonijevic, Stanczyk, Long, Zdenek Konvalina, Richard Landry, and Christopher Stalzer are also terrific in the opener, the second detail (Choreography by William Forsythe, Music by Thom Willems). Jennifer Fournier, Greta Hodgkinson, and Sonia Rodriguez lead the way for the girls in a strange modern abstract piece that was really cool if not slightly 5 minutes too long.

The music by Willems is really neat and allows the ballet to evoke a slightly more contemporary performance right up until the final moments in the starkly white box set.

Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan (Choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton, Music by Johannes Brahms) is basically a short showcase for Jennifer Fournier who ends her career at the end of this month and what a simple beautiful piece it is.

Seriously, this woman has 2 children and is about 39/40 years old? (based on my calculations from her bio). Wow!

Congratulations Ms. Fournier for a wonderful career that I sadly only discovered this past year (as I only recently discovered the joys of the ballet), but what a wonderful simple piece that showcases your beauty and beautiful movements and dancing skills!

As a whole, the night is a slightly odd mixed bag, each individually wonderful pieces, but as a whole, I'm not sure it worked perfectly well together yet. Still, it's a wonderful night of dancing with some super cool choreography. Sadly, the show only runs until this Sunday (June 22nd 2008).

The Fiddle and The Drum & Etudes & the second detail & Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan - The National Ballet of Canada with guests The Alberta Ballet - The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - ****

The Fiddle and The Drum - The Alberta Ballet - ****1/2

The Fiddle and The Drum will tour and is definitely worth seeking out:
Banff: September 5, 2008
Medicine Hat: January 16 & 17, 2009
Regina: January 20 & 21, 2009
Saskatoon: January 23 & 24, 2009
Lloydminster: January 25, 2009

Here are just a few dancers from The Alberta Ballet that I "noticed", ahem...:

Matthew Lehmann

Patrick Doe

Davidson Jaconello

The National Ballet of Canada has a great program for those 29 and under to get $20 tickets on the day of (starting at midnight on their website) under their program DanceBreak (and when asked for promo code, it's "DANCEBREAK" which they never seem to mention).

Here are my previous reviews from visits to The National Ballet of Canada:

Cinderella ****
Rooster & Soldiers' Mass & 24 Preludes by Chopin ****
An Italian Straw Hat ****1/2
West Side Story Suite & Glass Pieces & In The Night ****1/2
The Merry Widow ****

1 comment:

Keira Andrews said...

I saw the ballet this afternoon and it was marvellous. Didn't love the second detail, but Etudes in particular was fantastic. Nehemiah Kish is phenomenal. I could watch him all day long.

Jennifer Fournier's very last performance was quite emotional, as you can imagine. Very long standing O and lots of flowers. The whole company came out on stage to applaud (including some dancers who weren't working that day in street clothes) and Karen Kain gave Jennifer more flowers, etc. It was all very sweet.

Fiddle and the Drum was quite enjoyable as well. All in all, a terrific ballet season and this was a fitting end.

Thanks for the reviews -- I always look forward to reading them.