The National Ballet of Canada

April 5, 2005

The National Ballet of Canada
Brooklyn Academy of Music

April 5, 7 8, 9, 2005

Reviewed by Rose Anne Thom


What is most striking at the outset of The National Ballet of Canada’s The Contract (The Pied Piper) is not James Kudelka’s choreography nor Michael Torke’s original score—it is the setting. In fact, Michael Levine’s super-realistic set of a generic school auditorium and Kevin Lamotte’s complementary lighting design, with its dramatic use of overhead fluorescents and glaring emergency lights over exit signs, are the elements of this 2002 production that ultimately leave a lasting impression.

On the red-curtained stage at the back of the blanched auditorium, children enthusiastically enact the story of the Pied Piper for their elders—a play-within-a-play colorfully told. But later in that same auditorium, this repressed community ignores its own bargain with a healer who has restored health to its afflicted young adults. When the contract is broken over a sexual indiscretion, the disillusioned children blissfully follow the healer, who dons the Pied Piper’s colorful cape as she leads them away.

Denis Lavoie costumed the adult women in severe dresses, and the men sport inflexible topcoats, all in a somber hunter green. Tilting their bodies from side to side as they struggle stiffly in concentric circles, their arms angled inflexibly outward, these characters reveal little individuality. The crux of the problem is that Kudelka has failed to imagine choreography that might convey their dire, frightened conformity without it being as dreary, repetitive, and relentless as the people themselves. Only the spastic convulsions of the plagued young adults offer some release, if not invention. Nor has Kudelka found a physical sensibility that might communicate the singularity of Eva (danced by Martine Lamy), the healer. She seems as constricted as the others. Only in the last expansive lifts of her pas de deux with the engaged Will (Guillaume Côté), the sexual indiscretion that prompts the community’s wrath, is there any physical indication of her as a powerful and passionate woman. Unfortunately, in a most unpoetic gesture Will drops his pants and the romance, for the audience at least, dissipates.

Although there is a tale here worth telling, especially in these times of broken promises and false piety, Kudelka has failed to realize it in dance terms.

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