NATIONAL BALLET OF CANADA MIXED PROGRAM At the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen West), to June 22. See Dance Listings. 416-345-9595. Rating: NNN
After seeing a week of Mark Morris’s inventive choreography (see Scenes), The Fiddle And The Drum comes as a letdown. The high-profile import from the Alberta Ballet, part of the National Ballet’s Mixed Program, features choreography by Jean Grand-?Maître and music and visual design by singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell. It’s not only bad, but laughably so.
There’s an anti-war, pro-environment feel to the work, with lots of shots of the Earth and moon projected onto a screen and – I kid you not – images of helmeted dancers marching as if in the Third Reich. Another sequence, equally unsubtle, features performers waving white flags and a young girl giving us the peace sign. The scantily clad AB dancers deliver the work with energy.
Grand?Maître’s choreography is a mishmash of styles that never cohere. Jazz, hip-hop and movement you’d find at a block party contrast awkwardly with Mitchell’s songs. And about those songs. They’re mostly past-her-prime Mitchell, with lyrics that are hectoring rather than suggestive – genocide rhymes with suicide.
Thankfully, the rest of the program is better. The National attacks William Forsythe’s 1991 work the second detail with chilly precision and irony. Departing dancer Jennifer Fournier makes her mark in this work and then signs off with passion and elegance in a touching solo by Frederick Ashton.
The show’s high point, however, is Greta Hodgkinson, Aleksandar Antonijevic and especially Zdenek Konvalina’s show-stopping turns in Harald Lander’s Etudes. The work’s a technical rather than an artistic showpiece, but the dancers, and the National orchestra, make it all seem effortless.