Since I’m not officially reviewing the National Ballet of Canada’s performances of Christopher Wheeldon’s ballet Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland I’ll just say this (after seeing it last night): I think it’s a great show. What I appreciate the most, I think, is the rare combination of lack of pretense and directness with a very very high level of craft and taste and execution. It’s something we don’t see nearly enough of: very high quality (and sophisticated) popular entertainment. That goes for the music (by Joby Talbot), the designs (by Bob Crowley), and the dance. Also, it works so well as a whole, with each element balanced against the others. It’s a little long, a little frenetic at times, and sure, it’s not Ashton’s Cinderella, but it’s very good, and that’s already a lot.
As American Ballet Theatre’s fall season at the State Theatre comes to an end, I put together some thoughts for DanceTabs about some of the seasons’ high points, especially a dramatic performance of José Limon’s Moor’s Pavane (with Roman Zhurbin in the role of the Moor), a very touching Month in the Country, and the return of Piano Concerto #1 from last season.
Here’s a short excerpt: “The Nov. 7 cast of Month in the Country was particularly felicitous. Julie Kent’s portrayal of Natalia Petrovna is touching, unstinting in both her vulnerability – her heart seems to literally skip a beat as Guillaume Côté, the handsome tutor, takes her hands in his – and her histrionic, conniving nature….Gemma Bond, as young Vera, is equally multi-hued, if not quite so profound: sweet and eager in the opening scene, desperate and determined to get her way in her pas de deux with Beliaev, and furiously righteous – as only an adolescent wronged can be – when she discovers Petrovna’s dalliance with Beliaev. Côté, on loan from the National Ballet of Canada, was débuting in the role of the tutor, and yet he seemed to instinctually capture the character’s mix of innocence, heedless sensuality, and ardor.”
I had a brief chat with ABT’s music director, Ormsby Wilkins, about the recently rediscovered Benjamin Britten orchestration of Les Sylphides that the company is using this season. How is it different from the one they were using before, by Roy Douglas? On first hearing I found it lighter, more classical, with more detailed voices. But I wondered whether the differences went deeper. You can link to the conversation here.
Christopher Wheeldon’s new “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” will be performed at the Kennedy Center Jan. 18-23, by the National Ballet of Canada. In this interview in the Washington Post, he talks about his career, his return to storytelling, and the importance of entertaining people.
Here’s an excerpt:
“I have a lot to learn still, with storytelling and with dance,” he said. “I had been making a lot of work, and a lot of abstract work. . . . Describing characters through movement was something that I hadn’t done very much of. It was refreshing, like throwing all the windows open and airing out just a bit.”