Review: Watch her/A Month in the Country (The National Ballet of Canada)

A double bill with contrasting themes is featured in the National Ballet’s Watch her/A Month in the Country

Let me first say, that aside from The Nutcracker, Watch her/A Month in the Country was my first experience with not only The National Ballet of Canada but with ballet in general. Yet, while not knowing what to expect Wednesday night, I arrived at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts with eager anticipation.

This production was a double feature beginning with Watch her. A highly intense performance set to Lera Auerbach’s Dialogues on Stabat Mater, after Pergolesi, the story it tells is one of spirituality and the power of the human body.

Although, for me, it’s difficult to give a clear summary of Watch her since everyone in the audience probably had their own unique experience, there were some powerful themes to be affected by.

With such a large ensemble, Watch her was much more quiet than I expected. I thought I was in for a thundering performance with large, bold movements and a poignant orchestra. However, what I witnessed instead, was something so fluid and emotional with powerful subtlety and focused energy that I didn’t expect to be so moved.

Everything fit so perfectly together to enhance the choreography. The mostly grey tones of the costumes, the calm music, and simple set encouraged focus on what was actually happening on stage and on the dancers themselves. I found it quite mesmerizing how everyone moved with such clean efficiency.

Things flowed so well that it seemed as though those two chairs were appearing and disappearing as my attention never broke to catch anyone actually moving them. In particular, Sonia Rodriguez was so evocative in her role. Her presence filled the entire theatre even in her more ensemble moments.

Set in the 1850s, A Month in the Country tells a story of forbidden love. Beliaev, a young attractive student, is engaged as a tutor to a young boy named Kolia. However, he soon falls in love with Kolia’s mother Natalia and inadvertently disrupts the emotional stability of the household. Rakitin, confidant of Natalia, wisely insists that he and the tutor leave in order to restore a semblance of calm to the home.

Compared to Watch her, this performance was much more vibrant and colourful. What was actually 41 minutes, in truth felt like only 5. A more traditional ballet, the storyline was extremely entertaining and easy to follow.

With a much smaller cast, A Month in the Country seemed to have a very Commedia dell’arte feel about it. In several instances I was reminded of some of the stock characters traditionally found in this theatre form. The ornate set, colourful costumes, and pointed choreography were quite Molière-esque.

My favourite moment, however, was Skylar Campbell’s solo in the role of Kolia. He used a ball as a prop and I was quite impressed with how he was able to maneuver it around his body and dribble it without it dropping and rolling off the stage.

Whether you’re a frequent ballet-attendee or a complete rookie like me, in this double bill there is something for everyone. On for such a short run, it’s definitely worth checking out if you can.

Details

Photos of Jenna Savella and Patrick Lavoie in Watch her, and Greta Hodgkinson and Guillaume Côté in A Month in the Country by Aleksandar Antonijevic.