Artistic Director Karen Kain is truly taking the National Ballet of Canada to new heights. Tonight’s triple bill of three very distinct pieces was an ingenious way to end the company’s 60th anniversary season.
After the morose dancing of Hamlet, these vibrant vignettes showcased the National Ballet’s breadth, depth and exceptional talent. It was also a history tour of the last thirty years of ballet and as Artist in Residence Rex Harrington stated at the pre-ballet talk, it shows the National Ballet’s distant past, middle past and future.
The evening began with the playful ragtime Elite Syncopations, choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan and with the accompaniment of a fully costumed band of company orchestra players onstage led by retired music director Ormsby Wilkins. First performed by the National Ballet of Canada in 1978 with Karen Kain playing the lead female role, Elite Syncopations featured Xiao Nan Yu in the spotlight this time around. However, this ballet is truly an ensemble piece with a hurricane of dance and comedy, effortlessly swinging between pas de deux and corps de ballet.
The dancers dressed in hand-painted body tights by designer Ian Spurling charm the audience with a fast-paced romp. There are many memorable mini dance competitions and the much loved Tall-short pairing pas de deux danced by Christopher Stalzer and Adji Cissoko.
The second performance Song of a Wayfarer was polar opposite from the first. A very traditional, somber, technique driven piece originally choreographed by Belgian Maurice Bejart for Rudolf Nureyev and Paolo Bortoluzzi in 1971, this duet is truly timeless. Mahler’s lyrics to the classic song Song of a Wayfarer were sung hauntingly by baritone Peter Barrett. Emotion-filled and intense, a young man (played by Zdenek Konvalina) struggles with his double (played by Guillaume Cote). We are unsure what this shadow is, whether his conscience or his destiny, but it is clear this demon has to be reconciled with. The performance gathered a well-deserved standing ovation.
The last performance of the night was the highly anticipated Wayne McGregor futuristic dazzler Chroma,originally choreographed for Britain’s Royal Ballet in 2006 and first performed by the National Ballet in 2010. With neon lighting and androgynous costumes, this frenzied, cutting edge, highly technical ballet held the audience at the edge of its seats. It’s white décor world is as enigmatic yet whole as the dark, black filled world of the Matrix films. Composer Joby Talbot includes orchestrations of three songs by The White Stripes. The jagged edge of the score is a perfect foil for the rapid fire choreography and stark white backdrop which only serves to highlight the architecture of the human body and the nature of physical movement.
Until Jun. 17, 2012; Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen Street W; 416 (toll free 1 866) 345-9595 or www.national.ballet.ca.