THE SLEEPING BEAUTY restaged by Karen Kain from choreography by Rudolf Nureyev after Marius Petipa (National Ballet of Canada). At the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen West). To November 19. $40-$190. 416-345-9595. See Listings, this page. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Dance lovers are being kept on their toes this week by two big recent openings occurring at different ends of the economic scale.
Now that opera lovers have had a chance to praise the acoustics and sightlines of the new Four Seasons Centre, it's ballet fans' turn to gush.
The National Ballet of Canada's lavish The Sleepy Beauty is suitably drool-worthy, with Nicholas Georgiadis's sumptuous costumes and sets looking spectacular in the intimate hall.
New artistic director Karen Kain has restaged Rudolf Nureyev's choreography of the fairy tale ballet, one that's short on character and plot but rich in spectacle and bravura turns.
Opting not to see the first-night pairing of Greta Hodgkinson and Guillaume Càté, I chose to watch Xiao Nan Yu and Nehemiah Kish dance the Princess and Prince (they perform together one more time, on November 17). I'm glad I did.
Yu remains one of the company's strongest assets, an ethereal vision who can traverse a stage as if on air. Her technique and poise are flawless, as she showed in the breath-held scene where her Aurora balances on one foot while individually greeting her various suitors. For Yu, an instinctive actor, this isn't just a physical feat but an emotional one as well.
Kish, for his part, began his take on the Prince a tad carefully, but by the end had metamorphosed into a physically impressive yet sensitive partner. Among the National's principals, he shows great potential for leading-man status.
In smaller roles, Rebekah Rimsay, Je-an Salas, James Leja, Richard Landry and Stacey Shiori Minagawa made the three-hour running time pass quickly.
I'll have to reserve judgment on the National's new music director, David Briskin. At the Saturday matinee performance, guest conductor Emil de Cou delivered a sluggish, superficial reading of Tchaikovsky's second-rate score. Note to conductors: no more lazy phrasing, please. In this new hall, we can and do hear every bar of music.
Over at the Distillery, meanwhile, Dancemakers uncorked a different kind of event: the first full-length program under new artistic director Michael Trent.
The program, called The Home Season, opens with Trent himself on the floor, lying on his stomach, before the audience walks in. As the piece begins, he seems to wake up, then tries to get back to sleep again, whistling lullabies, counting (sheep? tricks?) and murmuring restlessly in a number of languages while he negotiates the limited parameters of his character's existence.
It's a suggestive, intimate piece that shows Trent the performer still in good form.
It's a mere crumb, though, compared to the feast of movement on display in Trent's reworking of his 2001 piece Random Access. Here, the choreographer gets to show off an architectural grasp of the manipulation of several bodies in space to maximum emotional effect.
His seven strong dancers work through subtle shifts in power and balance, creating a kind of personal semaphore that defies decoding.
The choreography and performances are slightly undone, however, by a perplexing, incongruous score and lighting that obscures more than it reveals.