Greta Hodgkinson Photo by Aleksandar Antonijevic
The National Ballet of Canada celebrates a milestone this year. Principal Dancer Greta Hodgkinson has been with the company for over 20 years and in recognition of this, the Company has included a celebratory dance for her in this summer’s mixed programme Celebrating Greta: Mozartiana & Other Dances & In the Upper Room.
Hodgkinson, who is originally from Rhode Island, was invited to become a member of The National Ballet of Canada at the age of 16. By 19, she was a second soloist, by 21 a first soloist and by 22, a principal dancer and today at 37, is beloved by dance fans for the depth and emotion she brings to her performances.
For her special dance, she requested to perform Jerome Robbins’ exquisite pas de deux Other Dances, a rarely performed dance which was originally created for Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1976. Rights to the choreography were secured and the performance sandwiched between George Balanchine’s classical Mozartiana and Twyla Tharp’s contemporary “In the Upper Room.”
The order of performances was wisely made as Mozartiana features classical choreography and In the Upper Room revels in a fast-paced contemporary explosion. Thus, Other Dances is a natural middle ground with its edgy feel to a classical base.
Mozartiana opens with a Preghiera (Prayer), followed by a Gigue, Minuet, Theme and Variations and a finale. In the opening movement, the ballerina is accompanied by four young girls and the next segment showcases a male soloist dancing a fun-loving Gigue. This transitions to four female corps dancers performing a Minuet to be followed by the ballerina now dancing with a male lead and then a series of variations.
Ballet at its purist and a wonderful start to the evening.
Other Dances is true Jerome Robbins and features four mazurkas and one waltz by Frédéric Chopin. Hodginson’s partner is fellow Principal Dancer Zdenek Konvalina. The opening mazurka which involves both dancers is classical although at times slightly plodding. Hodginson’s solos are done with great emotion and her movement to Chopin’s music is very memorable. Konvalina’s solo segments showcase Robbins’ innovative touches and the high level of difficulty to many of the moves, reminding one that they were originally created for the great Baryshnikov. The final mazurka is a merrier pas de deux and uplifting end to Other Dances. An inspired choice on Hodginson’s part, Other Dances was a joy to see and the audience truly celebrated this prima ballerina as she honoured us with a performance from her heart.
The final performance of the night was a rousing adaption of In the Upper Room. Set to music by Philip Glass, this was pure dance poetry and a truly contemporary ballet full of exuberance and energy and a cascade of overlapping movements, at times whimsical but always absorbing. Infused with jazz and pop elements, this relentless performance received a long standing ovation.
The trio of performances opened June 15th and runs through the 19th with Hodgkinson dancing her celebratory dance with Konvalina all four nights. The other two selections will feature a rotation of dancers. On opening night, the lead roles in Mozartiana will be performed by Principal Dancers Sonia Rodriguez and Aleksandar Antonijevic and First Soloist Keiichi Hirano. In The Upper Room will be performed by Principal Dancers Sonia Rodriguez, Jiří Jelinek, Piotr Stanczyk, First Soloists Keiichi Hirano, Tanya Howard, Stephanie Hutchison, Patrick Lavoie, Tina Pereira, Rebekah Rimsay, Jillian Vanstone, Second Soloist Jordana Daumec and Corps de Ballet members James Leja and Brendan Saye.
Mozartiana is a gift from THE VOLUNTEER COMMITTEE, THE NATIONAL BALLET OF CANADA.
In The Upper Room is a gift from Walter Carsen, O.C.
Zdenek Konvalina is sponsored through Dancers First by Gretchen Ross.