National Ballet of Canada Review: Ratmansky and Côté

Performance: May 30 matinee

Being & Nothingness world premiere

Choreographed by Guillaume Côté, started off as a solo commissioned by Greta Hodgkinson a couple of years ago, before being expanded for this season into a larger work. The piano music by Phillip Glass was quite a perfect fit for the piece.

Greta was as incredible as she was in the first time I saw this. Grappling with loneliness, questioning meaning, and the anxiety of confronting your being – it was all demonstrated here, in here “duet” with the light bulb.

The set was stark, pulled back and up without any backdrops or curtains. The main curtain pulled up several minutes before the start of the show, and showed Greta sitting at the edge of a bed staring out into the house even with the house lights up. Lying on the bed was Felix Paquet, and you wondered whether he was her lover in the piece, but it turns out he was just sharing the space until his vignette. Other set elements included a door, a sink, a window, a chair and a rug, a phone – all would have a dance vignette interacting with these props.

The Bedroom duet between Felix Paquet and Kathryn Hoiser was sweet and playfully romantic, as a young love blooms. However, he kept looking out the window – was this the pull of wondering what he is missing out in the world, from experiencing the moment in the now with this love? What I can say is that Paquet has stage presence in droves.

The Door duet with Chelsy Meiss and Jack Bertinshaw was similarily playful, but the staging with the door and the scarf made it seem as if it was a remembrance of a love affair in the past.

Dylan Tedaldi parlayed his powerful and dramatic dancing style, abundantly shown in Nijinski, in his solo The Sink. T laughed later that he captured how T feels when he wakes up, but I took the tone of the dance to be even darker than that. i saw depression and anxiety, leading to the brink of potential self-harm…powerful as always. He’s the only one cast in this role, and it’s true, i can’t really think of another dancer in the NBOC that could do similar justice to this solo yet. Oddly though, I kept being overly concerned about all the water he was splashing around being a slipping hazard; I suppose the watchful mother in me can’t turn off now.

I was excited to see Svetlana Lunkina dance in The Living Room as we don’t seem to get her cast in our show times very much. To me, her duet with Brent Parolin (who looks a whole lot like Jack Bertinshaw) was the attempt to break off a toxic relationship that still had powerful emotional pull. He starts off the piece with his head under the rug. At the end, she ends up covered partly by the rug. Is this a play on “sweeping it under the rug”? I don’t think the piece really makes use of her physical talents to the fullest, however, so I’m disappointed slightly by that. I wanted her to wow me, but this wasn’t the offering to allow her to do that. Well done yes, but I don’t know if it’s that memorable in the long run.

The Street is a vignette with 10 male corps members, dressed identically, kind of storming around and talking. They have been in the background for much of the action so far, performing subtle choreography to provide a bit of movement and texture to the large space, but in this section, I get the sense that they depict the “maddening crowd”.

It ends off with The Call, Greta again with Ben Rudisin. Her anxious character returns, this time needing to deal with a phone call and the news on the other side. No matter how Rudisin tries to sooth and assure her, she is preoccupied with the phone. The phone cord somewhat amusingly stretches all the way to mid-stage from the side wall, which brought back imagery from a SYTYCD piece a few years back. This one today ended up succeeding better with the prop, for sure.

In fact, much of Being and Nothingness might be very enjoyable for those who’s intro to dance is SYTYCD contemporary. It would stretch them, and show what a real professional company can do, as a class (or two) above.

Looking at the Twitter feed, people are really excited about this piece, and rightly so. I think this will make a return in future seasons of NBOC. Good for Côté, that’s a great achievement and definitely a confidence boost going into his first full-length ballet for next season.

Symphony #9

Unfortunately the main memory I will take from this one is one of the female dancers (I think it’s Lise-Marie Joudain) getting injured in the first minutes of this piece. She abruptly broke form with the other 3 girls and then limped off the stage in obvious pain. I sure hope that it’s only a sprain, and not something more serious like a tendon or ligament tear. Especially since she is cast in the Sleeping Beauty role of Lilac Fairy quite prominently in a couple week’s time.

The second memory I have is wondering why Skylar Campbell didn’t come back onstage for the curtain, when moments before he ended the piece with a series of pirouettes à la seconde. As the lights fell, he fell also – at first it seemed like it was part of the choreography. When he didn’t appear to take a bow, however, and the other dancers on stage also looked a bit confused/worried, I wondered if he also got injured.

At least I got to see Keiichi Hirano dance on last solo and duet before he retires at the end of the season. Sure enough, his role here had several jump sequences, which were what brought him to attention at the start of his career. i think now the height and ballon is not quite at the same wow-level anymore, but it was great to see him dance anyway.

As for Xiao Nan Yu and McGee Maddox…I dunno, if i don’t have much nice to say then I won’t say anything at all. They were ok, but I’m not going to remember this in the future. I admit to some droopy-eyeness during some of their sequences.

Piano  Concerto #1

The second of Ratmansky’s pieces to premier at NBOC this run. Both pieces are in the line of Ballanchine in the celebration of technique, minimalism in sets and costuming. If I hadn’t read anything about the background of the selected music (to Shostakovich) and the homage to that composer’s life influences, I wouldn’t have been able to surmise any of that from just watching.

Svetlana Lunkina and Harrison James were one of the couples, the other was Jillian Vanstone and Dylan Tedaldi. It was strange not to see Jillian and Harrison paired together, but it’s likely to give Harrison the experience of partnering with the other ballerinas too.

Let’s just face it, he is sure to be promoted several levels up at the end of this season, particularly with the retirement of two first soloists and one second soloist. But I’m going to be bold and say that Karen Kain will give him a promotion to Principal Dancer, after all the push he’s had this last season. In practically every show he’s been cast with some shows in either a lead role or significant solo. He’s getting the opening night role of Prince Florimund with Greta as Aurora come the run of Sleeping Beauty. It’s easy to see why though, and not just being in the fortunate position of being able to take up the reigns due to unfortunate injuries in Guillaume and Evan McKie (we saw him in the lobby today!). His technique and partnering strength has been shown throughout the season, and he’s handsome and has great stage presence to boot. He and Jillian got some great onstage chemistry happening in their dances together.

Back to the dance piece though, there are definitely beautiful shapes and movement created here. When all the dancers are on stage, the mosaic of moving lines and shapes and alignment are masterfully put together. There was tricky partnering too (some shaky moments with Dylan and Jillian) that added a risk element that kept you engaged. I liked this piece better than Symphony #9.

At the end though, the star of this performance was the Being and Nothingness piece. The normally shy matinee audience did get to their feet when Côté appeared onstage. They really ought to have closed the show with this, instead of opening it.