THE TAMING OF THE SHREW choreography by John Cranko (National Ballet of Canada). At the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen West). To March 18. $40-$190. 416-345-9595. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
How odd on International Women's Day to see a work about a feisty and rebellious woman worn down to submissive servitude.
Alas, the ick factor in The Taming Of The Shrew comes from Shakespeare's play, not John Cranko 's choreographic interpretation. Even so, what kind of role model are we giving those little ballet-loving girls in the audience?
Gender politics aside, the main reason for catching this Taming is to see the range of the National's dancers. The rule that comedy's harder to do than tragedy applies in the dance world, too. If those pratfalls get forced laughs, you know you're doing something wrong.
That said, in this version of the story about Petruchio's taming of Katherina, whose more feminine sister Bianca is courted by a trio of guys, there are a few too many drawn-out cute scenes of friends frolicking to make it as tight as the choreographer's classic Romeo And Juliet and Onegin.
As Katherina, opening night's Greta Hodgkinson proves a formidable comic actor, bravely playing against the typical ballerina's grace and femininity by raising a leg-kicking storm in the initial act and then scaling it down for her transformation. She's more than matched by late replacement Guillaume Côté , who nails Petruchio's cocky swagger with every leap. The two share such great chemistry that their pas de deux suggests the meeting of equals, something that's harder to communicate in the stage play.
Jillian Vanstone and Zdenek Konvalina get less chance to add personality to their more traditional contrasting couple, but they execute their moves with precision. At the podium, David Briskin conducts Kurt-Heinz Stolze 's arrangement of works by Domenico Scarlatti with so much control he nearly makes the choppy musical pastiche into something coherent.