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National Ballet of Canada.

NATIONAL BALLET OF CANADA

FOUR SEASONS CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS, TORONTO, CANADA NOVEMBER 9-19, 2006

In 1972 the National Ballet of Canada, at age 21, announced its coming of age with a lavish Nureyev-staged production of The Sleeping Beauty. It subsequently toured North America, bringing the company to New York's Metropolitan Opera House for the first of many visits. Purists initially criticized Nureyev for reassigning music to create more dancing for the prince. His choreographic additions were fiendishly difficult. Now, however, when it's common practice to give the princes a higher profile, his version, despite occasional idiosyncrasies, is among the finest anywhere.

By the late 1990s, after more than 270 performances, the visual splendor of Nureyev's production had faded and the dancing had become lackluster. A 2004 revival, supervised by Karen Kain, was supposedly the last. James Kudelka, then the company's artistic director, intended to create his own production once funds became available.

Kain, however, wrought the seemingly impossible by infusing the dancing with its former classical purity and the energy that had distinguished Nureyev's production. Her achievement garnered unanimous critical acclaim. Nicholas Georgiadis' designs, redolent of the court of Louis XIV, are more sumptuous than ever. His magical scene transformations of overlapping moving scrims once again work as they should. More important, the dancing had the stylistic purity Nureyev had insisted on, even if in the early part of a 14-show run, classical correctness was sometimes achieved at the cost of spontaneity.

Among a roster of six Auroras, debutante Heather Ogden delivered a classically exact yet thrilling performance. Xiao Nan Yu, though, offered the most refined and persuasive interpretation, with dancing of heartaching beauty, simplicity, and grace. Among the princes, 24-year-old rising star Guillaume Cote cut a suitably dashing figure. But it was former Houston Ballet member Zdenek Konvalina, making his NBC debut, who gave the most poetic reading of the Nureyev-choreographed soliloquy in Act II.

With her revival of The Sleeping Beauty Kain, who became artistic director in 2005, has successfully re-declared the company's classical roots and asserted its claim to be a contender in the major leagues. See www.national.ballet.ca.
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Author:Crabb, Michael
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Words:356
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