Sunday, September 23, 2012

National Ballet of Canada Choreographic Lab

I was pleased to attend this year's NBOC Choreographic Lab (previously known as the Choreographic Workshop and held every 2 years) last night. This gives the company's dancers the opportunity to create and be created upon. They managed to squeeze rehearsals into their lunch hours and occasional short breaks, despite an extraordinarily hectic schedule at the NBOC at the moment as the company prepares to take Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland  to Los Angeles in October before a long run in Toronto, followed by a run of Giselle, which the company has not performed for a few years. Also on their menu has been learning Neuemeier's Nijinsky, so kudos to everyone for finding the time and the energy to do this. Robert Stephen commented that in addition to giving him more choreographic experience, the process also informed how he approached his daily work as a dancer, and so he felt that it was an extraordinarily useful investment for the company (the labs are underwritten by donors Lucille and Urban Joseph). The four pieces were very different but equally enjoyable.
Robert's was the first piece on the program, Acoustic Resonance set to the adagio movement of Beethoven's Piano Trio Opus 11. He explained how he was inspired by his aunt, whose husband had died quite suddenly of cancer last year but still felt his presence quite physically with her every day.  The two dancers, Nadine Drouin and Nan Wang, danced together and apart, her hands often framing his face and then drawn away in the same position to suggest his physical absence still resonating in her memory.
Here's an interview with Robert at the time he was choreographing a piece for the Erik Bruhn competition


and rehearsal footage from In the Cantina, a piece he choreographed in 2010:



Next was Christopher Stalzer's Framework, set to a cello piece by Mark O'Connor, Appalachia Waltz. Stalzer said he aimed to reflect the deep dark tones of the cello in his piece, and it did indeed reflect the musicality, with dancers Tiffany Mosher (in a long black dress) and Patrick Lavoie (barechested in black pants) sweeping along to its phrases.

Robert Binet, who is not a dancer in the NBOC but a graduate of Canada's National Ballet School and currently choreographic apprentice at the Royal Ballet, provided Incident and Repose to Mompou's Musica Callada. In his notes, he said he wanted to create the impression that the dance had started before the music and continued on after it finished, a reflection of the composer's score, in which each section does not finish with the traditional double-bar line (signifying "end") but with a tied note where the tie extends beyond the bar line. I continue to be impressed by Binet's choreography, which I have followed since he was a student, and since he is still only 20, he holds a bright promise for the future. He is also currently choreographing works for Random Dance, Ballet Black, and the National Ballet of Estonia, and has created pieces for Germany's National Youth Ballet in Hamburg (for an example, please click here: https://vimeo.com/48232427). The NBOC piece, danced by Ji Min Hong and Jonathan Davidsson in Balanchinesque black-and-white, was true to Binet's neoclassical style with a strong flair for interesting partnering and movement. My planned ballet trip to London in February will include the Ballet Black performance. Click here for more info.

Finally, Dylan Tedaldi created Tic to various musical pieces spliced with voiceover from the dancers. Tedaldi said that this creation was a departure from his usual choreographic practice in which he strives in the studio to have the dancers recreate exactly what he has in his head. In this case, however, he started by asking the four dancers (Skylar Campbell, Jordana Daumec, Shaila d'Onofrio, and Shino Mori) what their nervous tic was when they were younger, and then incorporated that movement into a solo dance for each which was then taken up by the others . One shook her head from side to side, another bit her nails, a third jiggled his leg nervously.  This all worked much better and more entertainingly than that bald description makes it sound! Here's a young Dylan competing in the Prix de Lausanne 4 years ago:



In short, all of these are young talents to watch.

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