Sunday, March 09, 2008

Prelude to a Soldier's Rooster?

Everything was a little naked at the ballet tonight. And I mean that literally. There was very little clothing in evidence for the first third of the evening.

This week the National Ballet is doing a mixed bill of three short pieces. See more about them on the NBOC website.

The first piece is 24 Preludes by Chopin, by Canadian choreographer Marie Chouinard. The preludes are played on the piano, and are beautifully soft and flowing. The movements are so completely different from anything you would expect with that music that it is at first a little startling or off-putting. But then you get into it. They make sense. They fit. It is a new world, but a world that makes sense. I loved it. It was so completely not classical ballet, and showed off such completely different physicality from the dancers. It was amazing.

The second piece was called Soldier's Mass, by choreographer Jiri Kylian. This is set to a 1939 choral work by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu. It is a piece sung by male chorus (tonight the Toronto Mendelsohn Choir and Elora Festival Singers) and a baritone soloist. The music was dedicated to the Czech volunteers fighting the Nazis in France after the occupation of Czechoslovakia. The piece has 12 male dancers, who represent soldiers through the various moments of their war experience. It is intense, and moving, and powerful. Unfortunately I found myself in a row with squirming children and a teen who felt the need to brush her hair in the middle of this piece, and I lost my concentration a bit, but I totally want to see it again, to become completely immersed in it. The most powerful moments for me were probably the solo moments by Zdenek Konvalina. His dancing expressed such passion that I found myself on the edge of my seat, and near to tears at points. The final moments of the piece, with the full cast leading together to the inevitable conclusion was also earth shattering.

The third piece was Rooster, a ballet set to 8 songs by the Rolling Stones. This was the much anticipated, heavily marketed crowd pleaser of the evening. And I LOVED IT! This features 10 dancers, 5 boys and 5 girls. One of the men is the rooster of "Little Red Rooster" and this song and image form the basis of much of the movement that takes on a strutting feel. It is a very fun piece, which again shows a bluesier, looser, side to the dancers' physicality. There is something so visceral about the music of the Rolling Stones. It demands that you move to it. There were a few full group numbers, and then some features where one or two dancers were performing. Some were especially awesome. Corps member Jenna Savella shone in her number, lighting up the stage with her charisma and the way she can move. Newcomer Martin Lindinger in the "Rooster" role was fabulous. Such cockiness and Mickness in his movements. Greta Hodgkinson as Ruby Tuesday was also gorgeous, and magnetic. The pairing of Sonia Rodriguez and Keiichi Hirano in a playful couple of numbers was delightful. And, of course, my favourite was Robert Stephen and the ladies in "Paint It, Black". There was such an immense energy and passion to the number. Awesome. And the audience loved that one too. It got a huge round of applause!

So if you're looking for a night at the ballet that challenges and entertains, that includes lots of near nudity and the Rolling Stones, that is powerful and sexy, check out the National Ballet at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts all this week!

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