Titan in tights ready to take Toronto; European dance star Jason Reilly comes home to Canada to show off his latest moves:Smith, Gary. The Spectator [Hamilton, Ont] 29 Sep 2007: D19
Jason Reilly is the real thing. A born-in-Canada dance star with an international reputation. Ten years ago, this ballet buck left Toronto's National Ballet School, bypassed the parent Toronto company -- where everyone just assumed he would settle in -- and ran off to stardom in Stuttgart.
"I didn't exactly run off," Reilly says. "I was invited. The opportunity was too good to miss.
"I had a personal connection with Reid Anderson who was leaving his post as artistic director of The National Ballet of Canada. He was going back to Stuttgart. Me? I went along for the ride."
A rebel, Reilly impressed Stuttgart audiences with his masculine style. Now a principal with the company, he's fashioned a career based on brilliant stage dancing and off-centre behaviour.
"I'm just as likely to come back from holiday with a Mohawk haircut than not," he grins. "I dress how I like. And I've got body hardware, lots of places," he grins, revealing metal in his mouth and other body parts.
"There are also tattoos."
None of this stops Reilly from delivering the goods, from entering romantic bygone worlds. He's a hot Romeo Montague, a sizzling Siegfried in Swan Lake.
Strip off traditional ballet slippers and form tight tights, set him loose in something modern, say Itzik Galili's Mona Lisa, and you get instant meltdown.
Canada's legendary Juliet, the divine Evelyn Hart, calls him Stud Puppy. Italian prima ballerina Alessandra Ferri says he's a Titan in Tights.
In person, sitting over coffee, Reilly turns crimson pink when I suggest that he's hot. An extrovert on the surface, he's shy at the core.
"I was a problem kid at school," this muscular stallion shrugs. "Always acting out." Adopted as a child and brought up in Toronto, Reilly gravitated toward dance.
"Somehow I found ballet. I tried The National Ballet School at five. I was kicked out my first day. I just wasn't ready."
Still the notion of ballet stuck. Reilly liked the way boys lifted girls way up in the air and made them look light. He didn't give up.
"Even now I fall in love with the ladies I dance with," Reilly shrugs. "I just can't help doing that."
Watching him dance Siegfried in Swan Lake this summer in Stuttgart, I understood why they'd reciprocate. In Reilly's rough looks there is something pretty feral. He's a masculine man with the heart of a little boy.
"When I came to Stuttgart 10 years ago, I had no idea of what it meant to really work hard. I had no idea either that European dance was so different to what we see in North America.
"It wasn't just about steps," he continues. "You have to get inside the characters that you play. In North America, things seem pretty superficial. Audiences in Germany celebrate the arts. They don't rush out the door as the curtain falls, They stand and applaud, sometimes for 15 minutes. In Europe, it isn't about coming to the theatre to be seen. Ballet here takes people out of their lives to new exciting places."
Jason Reilly is comfortable with that.
"I feel I belong on the Stuttgart stage. People say I'm a star. Well, I never really dreamed about that. It's about the work and the dancing."
Still, Reilly misses his home in Canada.
"You grow up in a place. It's hard to say goodbye.
"I came to Stuttgart with no German language, no knowledge of how different the country is. With Germans, it has to be their way. You learn pretty fast there just is no other. But they have wonderful open hearts. They've made me feel I belong.
"They fill the theatre every night," Reilly continues. "They love their connection with the arts."
Reilly isn't sure what makes him special.
"People say I have confidence and a dramatic personality. Others see that as arrogance, a cockiness, I suppose. I don't know what I think. I can't stand outside and see myself. For me, it's all about the work, about growing as an artist."
Jason Reilly returns to Canada to dance with ProArteDanza in Toronto at Harbourfront, Oct. 3 through Oct. 6. In November, he'll guest star as Danilo in The Merry Widow with The National Ballet of Canada.
"Coming home is good," he nods. "But make no mistake my career is here in Germany. Nothing's going to change that."
Gary Smith has written on theatre and dance for The Hamilton Spectator for more than 25 years.He's been watching Jason Reilly dance since his first steps at Canada's National Ballet School.
For more about Jason Reilly and the audience reaction to his London Onegin performances, please click here.
If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.
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