I was fortunate to have seen two of the three works on this program live at The Kennedy Center just about one year ago. Although many aspects of our lives have changed, my level of enjoyment in watching The National Ballet of Canada has not.
Piano Concerto #1 is the finale of Alexei Ratmansky’s Shostakovich Trilogy, a ballet at once athletic and playful, contemporary and classical. The dual colored unitards worn by the corps – steel blue on the front and crimson red on the back – create patterns that compliment the abstract floating scenery.
Petit Mort by Jiří Kylián is highly entertaining. Mozart’s adagio score plus the black dress props and costuming of beige corsets nod the classical period of cultural history while exploring the “little death” that occurs as a result of sexual experiences.
The discordant mix of Joby Talbot’s composition with samples from The White Stripes is so fitting for Wayne McGregor’s Chroma which seems full of dichotomy. All of the dancers are wearing the same short, shaped-but-loose sheaths in grays that span the cool-to-warm color spectrum. The physicality of the choreography is somehow human and animalistic, earthly and other worldly.
Based on the title, the three ballets featured on this program are not surprisingly inspired by literary classics – Onegin by Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare’s play of the same name, and Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy’s novel.
Yet they are distinct in how each choreographer has decided to tell their stories.
Period costuming and expressive non-verbal conversation are key to portraying the relationship between Eugene Onegin and Tatiana in John Cranko’s Onegin. Onegin’s aristocratic dismissiveness contrasts that of Tatiana’s innocent romanticism by use of well-timed choreography and articulate body language.
For The Winter’s Tale, it is the pure joy of dance that conveys the young love between Perdita and Florizel. As the name of the location (Bohemia) of the scene suggests, Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography for the couple and their friends has a free spirited and ceremonial energy with vibrant costumes to match.
Closing is John Neumeier’s Anna Karenina adapted for the 21st century. Pedestrian mannerisms and household elements are integrated with the balletic choreography to narrate the internal conflict Anna Karenina has between the passion she feels for Count Alexei Vronsky and the love she has for her son, Seryozha.
If you only have fifteen minutes to watch ballet today, you can see excerpts of National Ballet of Canada’s classical repertory.
The first is the pas de quatre from Sir Peter Wright’s Giselle. In place of what is often performed as a pas de deux, the peasant variations in Act I of this version are performed by two couples: it opens with the four dancing, followed by a pas deux, then a male solo, a duet for the ladies, another for the men, and a female solo that transitions into the finale.
Next is the pas de deux from Le Corsaire, a piece full of bravura that – in my opinion – is truly taken out of context from the full length ballet. But many are first introduced to this ballet by this excerpt that is probably more often performed than the complete story it was taken from.
The finale of Etudes by Harald Lander closes the program. Choreographed by the one time director of The Royal Danish Ballet, it strives to preserve the tradition of August Bournonville’s style of ballet in the form of the progression of a classical ballet class. Being the end of the class, this excerpt is full of grand allegro, a dynamic ending to this short video.
Cherilyn's lifelong passion for ballet has opened the door to the next chapter of her journey. Her strong foundation includes training at the School of American Ballet, being a featured dancer with Hartford Ballet and Carolina Ballet, and being co-director/owner of City Ballet Raleigh. She was granted the Affiliate Teacher Award after successfully completing the ABT National Training Curriculum®. A professional career in the industry along with extensive global travel provide her with a unique set of experiences to draw upon as a journalist and audience member. Cherilyn is excited to be sharing her insight about ballet around the world.