|| The Ottawa Citizen
|| January 29, 2010
It was a ballet-lover’s dream last night at the NAC with the Canadian debut of one of North America’s preeminent dance companies, the Boston Ballet. Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen, the former head of the Alberta Ballet, presented a dazzlingly eclectic program featuring classic 20th-century ballets and contemporary works by talent from our time, including Canadian choreographer Sabrina Matthews.
The evening opened with Balanchine’s Ballo della Regina, a virtuoso showcase from 1978 set to music from Verdi's opera Don Carlos. Misa Kuranaga and Jeffrey Ciro were an attractive pairing for the lead couple on opening night. Kuranaga is tiny, but is not at a disadvantage in Balanchine, unlike some petite ballerinas, because she is so long-limbed for her size. She displayed charming musicality and quick, needlepoint-neat footwork. Ciro achieved spectacular elevation in his jumps, but was shaky as a partner, particularly when supporting his ballerina’s balances.
Nissinen commissioned Matthews to create ein von viel for Alberta Ballet in 2001. The piece is set to Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which has in itself become a dance cliche, and is choreographed for two male dancers who are asked to paint a physical picture of the tight counterpoint and fugal motifs in Bach’s music. The desired effect was not quite successful, since John Lam and James Whiteside, the two dancers selected to perform on Thursday, are so dramtically dissimilar in everything from their style of attack to the speed of rotation in their turns.
To mark the centenary of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, the Boston Ballet performed two early 20th-century ballets created for the famous touring troupe in the heady days before First World War. Both offerings were almost too wonderful for words.
In Fokine’s Le Spectre de la Rose, a young girl is visited in a dream by the spirit of the rose she wore to her first ball. Erica Cornejo was suitable somnolent as the dreaming maiden; her floral suitor, Nelson Madrigal, struck exactly the right balance between Belle Epoque camp and modern virility.
This was followed by Nijinsky’s sensual masterpiece, Afternoon of a Faun, which still resonates with that frisson of scandal that took Paris by storm in 1912. Altan Dugaraa was utterly captivating as Nijinsky’s creature, oozing animal hauteur and Greican geometry. A highlight of both Faun and Spectre were the iconic, exotic original costume designs by Art Nouveau genius Leon Bakst.
Unfortunately, there was not enough time to review the last work on the program, the critically acclaimed Brake the Eyes by Finnish-born Jorma Elo, Boston Ballet’s choreographer in residence.
The NAC Orchestra was conducted by Boston Ballet Music Director Jonathan McPhee. The playing was exceptionally fine in the Debussy, with a langorous flute solo by principal Joanna G’froerer.
Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, Nissinen will teach a free public class for advanced and pre-professional ballet dancers. Space is limited.
To register, call 613) 947-7000 ext. 588 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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