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Monday, September 24, 2012

Ballet Jorgen Canada Swan Lake

I was pleased to be invited to Ballet Jorgen Canada's 25th Anniversary launch party. Kudos to the company and its Director, Swedish-born Bengt Jorgen, for surviving and thriving so long. It is a small company, typically having fewer than 20 dancers, although this year it has been able to expand with the addition of apprentices to 24. Its small size allows it to bring live ballet to smaller communities and smaller theatres to which the larger companies cannot tour, and more power to them! According to Jorgen, the two technologies without which the company could not have survived were the PC and the minivan! They rely on scaled-down versions (never longer than 2 hours) of the large story ballets choreographed by Jorgen himself, but also promote new creations of a contemporary repertoire. Jorgen proudly stated that every single ballet in the repertoire was created on the company rather than bought in ready made. He also paid tribute to Arnold Spohr, longtime director of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, who provided Jorgen with a great deal of support in the early years, and to Linda Stearns, long associated with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, whose no-nonsense approach contributed a lot to the company before her untimely death.
He talked about how he had long dreamed of doing his own version of Swan Lake, knowing that the music would not fail to inspire his dancers through the numerous performances they have to do on their packed touring schedule. They will be visiting over 30 communities with the new production over the next months (for the full schedule, click here).
Jorgen wanted to follow in the tradition of his "Canadian-themed"  Nutcracker, which is set in Algonquin Park in Northern Ontario, uses Group of Seven paintings to inspire its decor, and includes dances for loons and racoons in place of the usual Land of the Sweets divertissements,



This Swan Lake will be set in the fortress of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, during the time of the French regime. This accounts for Siegfried appearing at the lake with a very large rifle rather than the traditional crossbow. I was intrigued to know how the Spanish and Hungarian dancers' presence in 18th-century Acadia would be accounted for in the storyline, but for the answer I will have to wait to see the complete production.



As part of the celebrations we saw some excerpts from the new production: Rothbart and his henchmen in Act II, followed by the white swan pas de deux and the cygnets (essentially the traditional Ivanov choreography in both cases, with a scaled-down corps of 8 swans), then from Act III the jester's solo, the Spanish dance and czardas (a pas de trois) and Siegfried's solo.The company was showing off their new (and first) Resident Guest Artist, Grigory Popov, a coryphee with the Mariinsky Ballet. His double cabrioles in the Act III solo were most impressive, and he had a certain expansiveness to his movement that was evident even in the cramped confines of the small studio further limited by four rows of seating for the audience. I assume he is here for the full year. Also impressive as the Jester was Gustavo Hernandez, whose Cuban origins were not in doubt as his elevation in jumps and "spin and grin" turns made the audience gasp. Saniya Abilmajineva made a lovely Odette. If Ballet Jorgen comes to a community near you with this Swan Lake, it's definitely worth a look. It opens this coming Friday at the Flato Theatre in Markham, just outside Toronto.





For a photo gallery, click here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/84440642@N07/show/

If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.

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