BWW Review: National Ballet's MADE IN CANADA Fascinates with a Mixed All-Canadian Program
Slip into a painting. Slip into the life of a man. Slip into nature. MADE IN CANADA stimulates the imagination with a program of three invigorating Canadian ballets - Robert Binet's The Dreamers Ever Leave You, James Kudelka's The Four Seasons, and Crystal Pite's Emergence. This program offers something for everyone from classical choreography, to contemporary and everything in between.
The Dreamers Ever Leave You
Using the paintings of Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris as inspiration, Robert Binet's The Dreamers Ever Leave You brilliantly conveys the meditative process induced when staring into one of Harris' distinct, abstract landscapes. Lubomyr Melnyk accompanies the piece with his minimalist "Continuous Music," a piano technique he developed involving incredible speed on the keys. The music is responsible for most of the trance-like effects, but Binet's choreography is a lovely companion to the endless melismatic playing.
In a canon-like fashion, one dancer will begin a sequence of rather contemporary movements, incorporating some pointe work. Fluid choreography strikes into sharp poses, before pairs of dancers assume a similar sequence - passing the dance across the stage. Skylar Campbell is thrilling to watch. His commitment to dance as his own language is almost as impressive as his consistent grace. Hannah Fischer naturally steals focus with her captivating star presence. Heather Ogden, spectacular as always, was notably centered and grounded in this piece - exhibiting some of the finest balance I've seen from her.
I viewed the piece as a symbol of the energy that we as humans all share - taking the form of the deeply personal emotions we experience by connecting with others through sex, heartbreak, love, and loneliness.
The Four Seasons
Vivaldi's beloved score is a dynamic foundation for James Kudelka's acclaimed ballet. This was my first experience with the enrapturing piece. Through the life of one man, each season is represented by a woman who was there for him - teaching him lessons in love, lust, and commitment.
Guillaume Côté has the difficult task of conveying a man at multiple stages of his life. He gives an enchanting, refined performance - swelling with the intensity of the music. As spring, Jillian Vanstone performs an ideal representation of youth and naïve happiness. Vanstone is a luminous dancer - so light on pointe that she practically floats across the stage with her calming, confident smile. As the background fades to a deep red, Côté sits panting - welcoming summer. Greta Hodgkinson brings aggressive passion to her dancing with fierce energy. Gone is the youth of spring. Côté and Hodgkinson have incredible sensual chemistry.
Vastly different from Kudelka's neo-classical ballet was Crystal Pite's Emergence. Pite has created one of the most atmospheric pieces for ballet I've seen - with dark, ominous sets and costumes. The haunting piece explores the relationship between insects and birds, and how they come together to create something beautiful. Using terrifying sound effects, incorporating clicking and ticking, Owen Belton's score establishes rising suspense - intensifying throughout the piece.
The most memorable aspects of this piece were the immense group scenes requiring careful harmony between 40-50 dancers. A striking moment that stuck with me involved a wall of ballerinas counting under their breath as they travelled from stage right to stage left - with groups of male dancers clashing against the line of fierce women. Although the piece was a representation of nature - the communication of strength, unity, and support among the women in this scene was incredibly timely.
MADE IN CANADA was an ambitious project. The classical ballets like Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty (running March 8-18) are sure to be easier sells - but with MADE IN CANADA, the National Ballet affirmed its commitment to honouring and promoting extraordinary Canadian art.
MADE IN CANADA was presented by the National Ballet of Canada from February 28 to March 4, 2018 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.
For more information, visit national.ballet.ca
photo credit: Artists of the Ballet in Emergence. Photo by Bruce Zinger.