virgin queen choreography by matjash mrozewski presented by Toronto Dance Theatre at the Premiere Dance Theatre (207 Queen's Quay West), Tuesday to Saturday (November 26 to 30) at 8 pm. $16.75-$37.50. 416-973-4000.
A delicate battle choreography by matjash mrozewski presented by the National Ballet of Canada at the Hummingbird Centre (1 Front East), Wednesday to Saturday (November 27 to 30) at 7:30 pm, matinees November 30 and December 1 at 2 pm. $30-$114. 416-345-9595.
matjash mrozewski's life is like an episode of Fear Factor right now.The dance artist is terrified of driving, but in a few months he's taking a leap of faith and going for his driver's licence.
"I don't really want the thing, and I don't intend to drive," he says. "But I'm going to do it anyway because I know I have to get over this problem."
That's nothing compared to how he's revved up his career.
Last year, he gave up the security and comfort of his National Ballet of Canada dancing gig -- he was second soloist -- to become a freelance choreographer.
"I often felt frustrated that I wasn't in charge of my life and career," he says, chowing down on a sandwich and veggies.
"In a big ballet company, someone else does the paperwork. The schedule goes up, you go on tour, get your per diem. On one level that's nice. But I felt that my responsibility for my life was low. My brain was atrophying."
Sitting in the National's lounge, Mrozewski's watching his words. He's not speaking on behalf of all dancers, whose brains are fine. The guy who's wearing a yellow T with the word "Mary" on the back obviously doesn't want to bite the hand that's fed him for the past decade and a half.
"The golden age of ballet in the 1980s, when people assumed they'd always have a job, is over," says Mrozewski, who's been involved with the National since he left Sudbury at age 10 for the big smoke and ballet school.
"My friends and I never had the illusion that it would go on forever. We knew that at some point we would have to prep for the world at large."
For most performers, choreography is something they approach when the injuries are mounting and the career is winding down.
But Mrozewski's been choreographing for years. And he left full-time dancing with a healthy body in his mid-20s.
"When I was choreographing, I wasn't as down on myself as when I was dancing," he says. "In ballet, you're in tights, you're always looking at yourself in the mirror, and there's this standard of perfection you're always trying to attain. After a while, even if you see it for what it is, you can't stop. You beat yourself up.
"When you're choreographing, there is no template of what's right and wrong. There aren't 20 other guys behind me who are better turned out."
Right now, he's getting ready to execute a three-point turn that could catapult him to the front of the dance artists' line.
Besides remounting A Delicate Battle, his acclaimed National commission from last year, he's performing a principal character role in the company's production of Frederick Ashton's La Fille Mal Gardée.
He's also debuting a new work, Virgin Queen, for Toronto Dance Theatre, which opens Tuesday (November 26).
If there's an underlying theme in his work, it's his fascination with strong women -- a common preoccupation of gay men.
It's there in the ballgowned women who deal with various levels of oppression in A Delicate Battle, and it's obviously at work in Virgin Queen, which draws links between Queen Elizabeth I and a modern-day young gay man.
"Although sexually and romantically I'm all about men, I'm much more in awe of women," he says.
What fascinated him about Elizabeth were the personal sacrifices she made to fulfill her greater destiny.
"It was hard for her to get close to people, sex was fraught with dangers -- women died in childbirth and were subjugated by their husbands," says Mrozewski. "I can relate. For me, sex, getting to know people and falling in love are beautiful things, but there's a lot of emotional peril involved."
Mrozewski's aware that his every move will be carefully watched. Is he scared of repeating himself?
"I'll always be aware of dramatic content and the human aspects of the dancers, even in abstract work," he says. "If that means the pieces look the same, fine. I'm not going to stick a projector onstage and have someone talking and defecating."
Next year, he's creating a tutu ballet for the ballet school. As well, a company in Australia is mounting Battle.
"There are still holes in my schedule, but I'm not worrying," he says. "I'm a little more known now. There's more chance that I'll get that phone call."
And if not?
"I'll still learn how to drive." firstname.lastname@example.org