Monday, November 11, 2013

Duck Dynasty - Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty - Tchaikovsky Ballet Reviews

Swan Lake - National Ballet of Canada at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts - Toronto, ON - ****1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Choreography by James Kudelka
Runs until Nov. 17th 2013 and returns Mar. 8-16th 2014

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty: A Gothic Romance - A New Adventures Production at New York City Center - New York City, NY - **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Choreography by Matthew Bourne
Currently on tour. 

Perhaps I need to see Bourne's Sleeping Beauty again, because while there were enjoyable moments, and I will say the new twist on the story to modernize it interesting..., I did not feel connected to the piece and thought the choreography was not the most interesting dancing Bourne has done, and did not come close to the inventiveness and expressiveness of his Play Without Words or The Car Man. Maybe a second viewing might give me better insight, as my second time around to National Ballet of Canada's Swan Lake, a version choreographed by Canadian James Kudelka, struck me far more than my first viewing. Possibly knowing and understanding the story helped and let me enjoy the choreography unhindered by trying to figure out the classic story (that I had never seen up to that point), but this time around, I found the ballet classic simply beautiful and a great showcase piece for the members of the ballet company.


So now that I fell in love with Kudelka Swan Lake choreography, with scenes to showcase the male ensemble corps in the first act, then the ladies get to impress as swans in the second. With this opening, the company chose to give the leads to rising star McGee Maddox as Siegfried, opposite Principal dancer Xiao Nan Yu, a pairing I was surprised at when first announced for Swan Lake, but in actual performance, works smashingly beautifully!

Xiao Nan Yu is a very strong, self assured dancer. I tend to think of her as the queen mother of sorts of the company, but often, I find her pairings a bit unbalanced because she IS so strong and confident, and a times overpowering her pairing. McGee Maddox, who is a sort of beast of ballet, a muscle framed hulking dancer, who looks more appropriate for the football field than in tights, is a unique star-in-the-making. Maddox, with his boyish matinee idol looks, and atypically large frame, looks like he would be weighted down by his muscles and yet dances with the grace of a feather and manages to float through the air as he jumps. The pairing of Maddox and Yu only strengthens each others best qualities (which they hinted at in Elite Syncopations, though I missed their previous pairings), and allows Yu to freely be as strong as she is, and she gives what may have been her best performance I have seen her do yet.

Yu's Odette, the White Swan, is strong, assured, and beautiful in her confidence. Not necessarily the frail swan waiting for her Prince, but this swan understands her grace and power and it nicely contrasts to Maddox's naive and melancholic Siegfried. We easily understand why the indifferent Prince would fall in love with the radiant swan Odette. Then when Yu becomes Odile, the Black Swan, she becomes confident in a different way. Yu's Odile is coy and seducing, and


Meanwhile, the opening night cast, with nary a sight of the usual Principal stars Antonijevic, Ogden, Côté, Stanczyk, etc., was basically a great showcase for the upcoming stars of The National Ballet of Canada!

Tanya Howard as the Wench, Jillian Vanstone, Jenna Savella, Elena Lobsanova, and Tina Pereira as the Princesses, Nan Wang as Benno, Robert Stephen (who plays the Fool on other nights) in the male corps, Etienne Lavigne as Rothbart. The National Ballet of Canada's future is in great hands (or should that be pointed feet?)! The female corps seemed tighter than ever, while the men had great fun trying to amuse and brighten up the sullen Prince (and this time, beside Robert Stephen, I found Giorgio Galli particularly mesmerizing within the corps).


Less mesmerizing was Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty, which had many great ideas and nice theatrical elements (including a somewhat creepy baby puppet to begin the prologue) but it all did not add up to enough of an emotional pull that usually dominates previous Bourne shows I've seen. I appreciate Bourne's effort to rework the simple story of Sleeping Beauty and give it an update and dramatic boost, but it seems to illicit more of a confused response. The subtitle A Gothic Romance brings Sleeping Beauty to modern times in the second act, as Sleeping Beauty has been sleeping for over a 100 years, but while having the young love meet before her sleep induced coma adds resonance to the love story, trying to keep it alive by turning the young man into a vampire, starts feeling more like a way to grab more demographics than trying to make the story make sense.


There are some interesting ways Bourne has inserted unique characters for solos, including some "good" vampire/angels(?), and the costumes and sets by Lez Brotherston keep the visual interest alive, but overall, something about the production just did not quite awaken for me despite an attempt and shaking up the classic fairytale.

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