Sunday, December 14, 2014

Interview: Dancer Emma Hawes, on The Nutcracker, National Ballet

(photo by Aleksandar Antonijevic)

Plumming in The Best Nutcracker
by Ramya Jegatheesan, Senior Contributor
Emma Hawes was born in Delaware, Ohio and trained at the BalletMet's Dance Academy in Columbus, Ohio and Canada’s National Ballet School. She joined The National Ballet of Canada as a member of the Corps de Ballet in 2011. Ms Hawes’ repertoire includes Swan Lake, Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, The Sleeping Beauty, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, La Fille mal gardée, Cinderella, Nijinsky, The Seagull, The Four Seasons, Theme and Variations and Carmen. In 2012, Ms Hawes represented the National Ballet in The Tenth International Competition for The Erik Bruhn Prize with Second Soloist Brendan Saye and won the Audience Choice Award. The Charlebois Post - Canada Senior Contributor Ramya Jegatheesan spoke with Emma Hawes.
CHARPO: When was the first time you ever saw The Nutcracker? 

HAWES: I was probably around seven-years-old. The first one I’d ever seen was actually one I was involved in. So it’s been a lifetime of Nutcrackers. 

CHARPO: What was that experience like, and what role were you playing?

HAWES: At that point, in my very young career, it was the most exciting thing I had ever been involved in. I was a party girl. I got to wear a really frilly and glam big dress. I was the Mother Ginger’s child. That was the highlight. It was really really exhilarating. To this day, when I hear the music I still think of the first time I ever danced The Nutcracker and it still brings that excitement back. I’ve been involved in a couple of different productions of The Nutcracker. That one was in Ohio, and I was in a couple of other ones. From then until now I was actually never involved in The Nutcracker until after I was in the National Ballet Company so this is kind of exciting.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Review: (Toronto / Opera) #UncleJohn

(photo by Darryl Block)

Mozart a Little, Mozart a Lot
by Beat Rice, Editor

#UncleJohn is the title character of Against The Grain Theatre’s modern  translation/adaptation of Mozart’s Don Juan. The well-known story of the womanizer who causes trouble and eventually pays for it in the end, has had its libretto re-written in English by Joel Ivany. Ivany, who is also the stage director, has envisioned the opera to take place in the here and now-literally, in the Black Box theatre, on Queen West in Toronto, the day before a winter wedding. Mozart’s complex score, with new musical arrangement by Stephen Hargreaves, generally remains the same, with a few hilarious pop culture interludes in the second act. The characters and the story also do not veer far from the original, sharing the same Italian names and relationships. Uncle John (Cameron McPhail) arrives to crash the wedding of young couple Zerlina (Sharleen Joynt) and Masetto (Aaron Durand) with his wingman Leporello (Neil Craighead), and runs into two ex-lovers, Elvira (Miriam Khalil)  and Anna (Betty Waynnne Allison). Sexual tension, miscommunication, and chaos ensue. 

Review: (Dance / Montreal) The Nutcracker

(photo by John Hall)
They Should have Called This “The Nutcracker’s Friends”
by Aleksandra Koplik, Senior Contributor

Perhaps I am not the best person to critique this performance as The Nutcracker is my all-time favourite winter ballet and holiday activity, so I take it very close to heart when a classical piece is done differently.

First off, I have to mention the incredible design that was created on and for the stage by Peter Home. It was absolutely breathtaking. Everything from the owl clock to the growing Christmas tree, to Clara’s dream world was done beautifully. The locations and acts were carefully layered with thin themed veils and the lighting (by Nicholas Cernovitch) really did its work in making them transparent or opaque.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

First-Person: Soprano/Director Robin Eder-Warren on Hansel and Gretel, Opera Mariposa

(photo by Kathryn Nickford)
Entering the enchanted forest
making opera magic with Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel
by Robin Eder-Warren

Robin Eder-Warren is an award-winning soprano and critically acclaimed stage director, as well as the managing director of Opera Mariposa, a Vancouver-based company for emerging artists. She made her operatic direction debut in 2013 with Pergolesi's La serva padrona, which was hailed as “a masterpiece of controlled mayhem” (Review Vancouver). She went on to direct Donizetti's Don Pasquale, which was praised as “well-honed,” “delightful,” and “an excellent harbinger of more well-cast and well-directed operas to come” (Opera Canada magazine). As an award-winning soprano, Robin has sung on stages around the world, from Germany to New York to Disneyworld, and has been described as “a talent beyond words” (Life in the ‘burbs). Select role highlights include Musetta (La bohème), Despina (Così fan tutte), Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), Gretel (Hansel and Gretel), Laurey (Oklahoma!) and Cunegonde (Candide) among many others. As well as directing Hansel and Gretel for Opera Mariposa, she is currently performing as Meg in the Broadway musical Little Women with Fighting Chance Productions.

I have a confession to make: directing a fairy tale is not as simple as it seems.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Review: (Montreal / Dance) Winnin'

(photo by Frédéric Chais)

No end in Sight
by Caitlin Murphy, Senior Contributor

Winnin' is a compendium of gestures that, like its truncated title, are reluctantly reaching towards completion. Choreographed and performed by the brilliant Dany Desjardins, who has previously created All villains have a broken heart (2008), On Air (2009) and POW WOW (2011), it's an accomplished and powerful piece that explores our obsession with winning, and encourages us to lay down our tools of self-inflation.

News: Opera News Awards announced, include Canadian soprano Teresa Stratas (Press Release)

News: (Ottawa) Opera Lyra announces major shifts in artistic program (Press release)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Essay: Jacob Niedzwiecki on the future of artists and arts organizations, Part III

“Build no more fortresses, build railways.” Part III
by Jacob Niedzwiecki
(reprinted with permission)
Performance photos by Vish Hansa, featuring the cast of Jacqueries, Part 1

We hang together, or we hang separately
I’m at a point in my career where I’m getting asked more and more frequently, “Are you incorporated?” As I see it, I have been lucky enough to avoid that fate. As a young artist, I watched several creators go through that process only to emerge with an incredibly cumbersome organizational armature that actually made it harder for them to make work. Since leaving the National Ballet in 2007, I have fiercely defended my independence and my creative initiative. But I also can’t overlook the way that my relationships with established companies (large and small) have made my independent career possible.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Joel Ivany, Artistic Director of Against The Grain Theatre, on #UncleJohn

Uncle John is on his way to TO. 
by Joel Ivany, Artistic Director, Against the Grain Theatre

He wreaked utter havoc in the picturesque landscape of the Rocky Mountains, and now he's taking his game to the big city.  

It's been quite an experience taking this libretto, arrangement and production of #UncleJohn from a workshop setting at The Banff Centre to AtG's home setting for its première in Toronto. In Banff, we were able to play, practice and hone our technique with some of North America's best voice, acting and music instructors. Exploration and dramaturgy made our unique product even better, and being supported by The Banff Centre and the Canadian Opera Company ensured a high quality production. I believe wholeheartedly that had we not been able to workshop this piece in Banff, we wouldn't be able to achieve what we will do in Toronto.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Review: (Montreal / Dance) Yellow Towel

(photo by Maxime G. Delisle)
All eyes on Dana Michel
by Aleksandra Koplik, Senior Contributor

Dana Michel, creator and choreographer of Yellow Towel, manages to baffle you from the very beginning of the show. She entered the room in a baggy pair of black sweatpants, New York Yankees hat, over-sized sweater and clunky white shoes with gold spikes. It's hard to believe, at first, that the man we initially see on stage is actually a woman. She uses very brief moments to get in the skin of different characters and maximizes their existence on stage, whether it's a man or a woman or a child. Breaking into all the different typical black stereotypes, Michel uses speech to narrate her performance. When she was a little girl, she wanted blonde hair, so she would wrap her head in a yellow towel. This is a re-occurring symbolism throughout the piece. I couldn't pinpoint her origins, because at different points she spoke with a fluent Jamaican, Georgian and New Yorker accent. When I realized she was actually from Ottawa, I couldn't believe it. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Essay: Jacob Niedzwiecki on the future of artists and arts organizations, Part II

“Build no more fortresses, build railways.” Part II
by Jacob Niedzwiecki
(reprinted with permission)
Performance photos by Vish Hansa, featuring the cast of Jacqueries, Part 1

Live performance is now a premium product — or even more of one
We’re putting on live performances in the age of mechanical reproduction. When 'free' is the default price point, even a fringe show becomes a premium product. For indie organizations and companies that run close to their communities, this is only a small bump up the ladder. But organizations who were offering a premium product are now offering an elite product. They need a strategy to avoid creating a price umbrella. They need an affordable on-ramp for aspirational consumers and potential audience members. And they need to pay time and attention to social issues to keep their image positive. Cheap, high-reach activities like livestreams can help all types of organizations. Large organizations can use second companies or chamber groups as ‘flanker brands’, with the potential to negotiate contracts more amenable to reaching extramural audiences.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Review: (Montreal / Dance) Prismes

In a land of dreams and nightmares
by Chad Dembski, Editor, Dance

Montréal Danse is an intriguing Montreal dance company in that they choose a different choreographer for each new creation. Led by Artistic Director Kathy Casey, they tend to allow an exploration of new ideas and experimentation. Prismes; a highly original, bizarre and ambitious piece was originally created in 2013 at Agora de la Danse explores perception. The perception of colour, of light in space, and of body in as many forms as could be imagined. With a varied and pulsating soundtrack by Laurent Maslé and Tomas Furey the six performers display incredible virtuosity throughout the 75 minute piece.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Essay: Jacob Niedzwiecki on the future of artists and arts organizations, Part I

“Build no more fortresses, build railways.” Part I
by Jacob Niedzwiecki
(reprinted with permission)
Performance photos by Vish Hansa, featuring the cast of Jacqueries, Part 1

I’m a choreographer, director, and coder. In the last seven years, my creative work has reached a live audience of maybe 15,000 people. In the same period, I’ve reached over 150,000 people through works for screen (directing the recent World Ballet Day livestream for the National Ballet of Canada, music videos, and other online videos, and film festivals). So if I want to reach the widest audience possible, I should focus on works for online audiences, right?

No. Online audiences don’t generally like to pay for things, and there are no arts councils in cyberspace. (Corporate sponsorship sometimes fills in, but it usually follows success rather than enabling it).

 I’ve reached ten times more people through online and film works, but earned less than a tenth of the compensation for that work. 

These comments about earnings don’t come from a place of greed, but a place of accessibility. When I was twelve, I read Arnold Haskell’s midcentury primer on ballet, which advised that it was unwise to attempt a life as a ballet dancer without wealthy parents or a rich husband. Given my hippie parents and my penchant for bohemian/artist types, I was lucky that in the intervening half-century, dancers had organized and made ballet a viable profession. When it’s impossible to earn a living from creative endeavours, artistic creation becomes an elite pastime. Online creators have struggled with this sustainability question since the dawn of the Internet, and only recently have platforms like Kickstarter and Patreon begun to help.