Sunday, March 16, 2008


Aleksandar Antonijevic in Rooster. Photographer: Sian Richards
I recently saw the National Ballet's Rooster, 24 Preludes by Chopin and Soldier's Mass. I attended with a dancer, and we had polar opposite reactions: alack, you are stuck with mine alone.
The Preludes, accompanied by piano, were arranged by 'bad girl' choreographer Marie Chouinard. I haven't seen much modern ballet for about ten years, so I found it interesting to be updated, but I found the attempts at humour often lacked substance and didn't do Chopin justice. This was a very organic piece and the dancers connected with the audience, but I found the tone of the choreography just too self-reverential. I also felt the larger chorus lacked cohesion, although the demi-chori were more successful.
Soldier's Mass was extremely poignant but avoided being sentimental about war; indeed, much of the choreography was evocative of military formations and battlefields. I appreciated the references to a Christ figure during the Kyrie and other parts, and I felt the costume design suited the eastern music of Kylian well. Did anyone else notice that with the exception of three musicians, all the instrumentalists, dancers and choral singers (members of the Elora Festival Singers) were male? There was a palpable weightiness to this ballet. That's a good thing.
The much-awaited Rolling Stones-scored ballet, Rooster, tried to do too much. Choreographer Christopher Bruce created this some 30 years after its characters, Mods and Rockers, walked the earth, and it is still fresh. I'm glad the NBC put it on. But I kept feeling like the ballet couldn't decide what style it wanted to be: it rocked between lyrical, Elizabethan dance, and rock 'n roll. During Not Fade Away, I half expected Elvis Stojko to come out on rollerblades. Paint it Black worked and the finale Sympathy for the Devil lived up to my expectations. I hope next time the ballet administration decides to push the boat out that they will go whole hog and really let loose with something even more audacious. Bruce was working with the music; I just wish it had all been serious rocking.
I'm glad my one recent chance to see our ballet was this one. Karen Kain has breathed a much-needed breath of fresh air into this arts organization. I hope they will continue to diverge from the traditional repertoire, and often.

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