Archive for April 2nd, 2008

Timecode Break – Toronto Dance Theatre – Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House

April 2, 2008

Once again we decided to hope against hope that a dance piece could be made that successfully combined dance and video (recent failures including “Electric Counterpoint” and the wretched Shen Yun show in January) and hopped down to the Royal Opera House tonight to see the Toronto Dance Theatre’s “Timecode Break.” Thankfully, the video can be almost completely ignored, and is often merely an ambient backdrop or even a colored hanging. While the movement  on the video feed occasionally mirrored (deliberately out of synch or even backwards) the dancers’ movements, and at one point produced a long emotional sequence (do the dancers all really touch and kiss each other like the screen was showing? intriguing to say the least) that seemed well suited to the “dreamers” laying on the stage, it never really overshadowed it like so many video sequences do.

This is a good thing, because Toronto Dance Theater is an insanely energetic troupe that really deserves full audience attention. Jumping straight up from a squat, landing on one foot then falling backwards, doing a leaping spin into a crouched roll, they set high standards for punishing movement. I was really caught up by their energy, and it was also great to see such good dancers for once performing in “good” costumes – tank tops and cut-off workout pants that completely failed to distract from the bodies in motion on the stage and even enhanced them. The dance seemed to be varying a bit between group and solo work, but mostly stayed with the group, and while I found their movement interesting (and a fresh relief to some very silly modern dance), it did actually start to drag a bit, which is sad in a one hour piece. That said, I did enjoy the show and would recommend it as a good chance to see a very strong group of performers.


Royal Ballet’s “Sylvia” – Royal Opera House

April 2, 2008

As I saw this show on closing night (and I’ve got about a show a night this week and little time for writing), I’m going to make this review fairly brief. “Sylvia” sells itself as a pretty, full-length Ashton ballet. We were drawn by the lovely posters, featuring a tunic-clad Greek goddess type blowing a hunting horn, and the music, which is by Delibes, composer of the brilliant Coppelia. I was also interested in seeing a full-length Ashton ballet, as his short works had been of somewhat mixed quality (Les Patineurs brilliantly excepted) and, as a recent arrival to these shores, I have been wanting to become better aquainted with the local idea of good choreography rather than staying hide-bound in my little Balanchine-centered ballet world. (I’d previously seen The Tales of Beatrix Potter.)

Even though this ballet has been recut and rearranged by Christopher Newton, it can’t get past its age and … God only knows what else is holding it back, but this is a musty old basket from the ballet basement and while it isn’t horrid, it’s just not interesting, not enough to see twice and not enough to recommend to anyone other than people who want to fill in their ballet history. I say this despite the fact that with Marianela Nunez dancing I really could not have asked for a more elegant lead. She was fantastic in the second act’s seduction scene, my favorite part of the ballet. But the rest of the characters and the story were just so stale and painful I could barely stand it. The villain (Orion) was out of a Disney cartoon; the entire plot seemed to be a missed episode for Fantasia, a sexless Greece with pretty gods dancing prettily and villagers pushing charming carts and holding lambsies and hoes. The costumes looked like they were pulled from a girl’s bedroom circa 1952, and the sets were hobbled by the past in a way I’ve only ever imagined American opera is, clinging desperately to the recognizable incarnations of “high art” by being pathetically realistic and overdesigned. Seeing this ballet made me understand why people think this is a dying art, especially considering what was happening contemporaneously with on the American stage.

Thanks to a gorgeous violin solo in the third act, I didn’t consider the night so terrible as to be unredeemable, but I was just not sold, even though there were dancing goats. With luck, a week of modern dance will wash this whole thing right out of my mind and the next time I go to the ROH it will be something where the choreography takes advantages of the fantastic talent made available to it instead of smothering them in tripe.

(This review is for a show that took place on Monday, March 31st, 2008.)