Review: Celebrating Greta-Mozartiana, & Other Dances & In the Upper Room (The National Ballet of Canada)

Gracious and graceful Greta gives gratifying performance at the National Ballet in Toronto

As a child, seeing a live ballet performance presented by The National Ballet of Canada seemed like a distant dream. I remember seeing clips of prima ballerina’s dancing on the Bravo channel and marvelling at their extraordinary grace, strength and stamina. At times, I would comically try to mimic their pirouettes and jetes, to no avail of course.

It was then that I vowed that once I hit adulthood, I would see as many live performances as possible; and it is now a great honour that I have the privilege to celebrate this spectacular show.

Honouring Greta Hodgkinson’s 20 years as a distinguished principal dancer for the National Ballet of Canada, Celebrating Greta- Mozartiana, & Other Dances and In the Upper Room offers three distinct programs, combining contemporary and classical ballet with brilliance and virtuosity.

The show opens with Mozartiana, a revival by the great Russian-American choreographer George Balanchine. Dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Suite No.4, “Mozartiana Op.61” performed by a live orchestra, is the effervescent Sonia Rodriguez accompanied by Aleksandar Antonijevic on opening night. Following their impressive number is an amusing finale including various ballet artists and students from Canada’s National Ballet School.

Originally created 35 years ago for luminaries such as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Natalia Makarova; Jerome Robbin’s Other Dances, performed to live Chopin piano music in the second act of the show, featured the lovely Greta Hodgkinson and Zdenek Konvalina.

Clearly an intricate and classical technical piece, Hodgkinson and Konvalina execute their choreography with fortitude. Very unique to other duet routines, the two appear to be having a conversation through dance, bringing spirit and character to the number almost in the form of a friendly and playful competition. This act undoubtedly ended with a standing ovation and a well-deserved plethora of roses for the beautiful Greta.

I did not bring a guest with me, but I did manage to strike up a conversation with a ballet aficionado; a retired gentleman sitting next to me with season tickets. We both sat awe-struck as we watched the last piece, In the Upper Room choreographed by the renowned Twyla Tharp. Fresh and full of finesse, this 40 minute non-stop energetic piece, set to a hypnotic score by Phillip Glass, begins with two dancers moving frenetically, repetitively and tirelessly on the stage. The ensemble of dancers eventually evolves onto the smoky and foggy stage with men in striped prison-like costumes, woman adorned in the same attire with red pointe shoes, coming together to create a jaw-dropping finale to an amazing evening at the ballet.

A ballet dancer’s indefatigable energy and endurance, coupled with their limitless ability to push their bodies to mental and physical extremes is always awe-inspiring to watch. There is much to learn from the art of ballet. Concluding the last number with a second standing ovation, I can’t say there is greater proof that this was indeed a night worth celebrating.


-The National Ballet of Canada will be presenting Mozartiana & Other Dances & In the Upper Room, at the Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen Street W. Tickets may be purchased by calling 416 (toll free 1-866) 345-9595 or by visiting

-The show runs Wednesday, June 15th at 7:30pm, Thursday, June 16th at 2pm and 7:30pm, Friday, June 17th at 7:30pm, Saturday, June 18th at 2pm and 7:30pm and Sunday, June 19th at 2:00pm.

Photograph of Greta Hodgkinson by Bruce Zinger