Dance Preview: Choreographer Kathleen Rea’s Men’s Circle – Dance Meets Psychotherapy

Kathleen Rea
Photo Simon Tanenbaum

Introduction to Kathleen Rea

Men’s Circle (Nov. 3-5) is Rea’s exploration of the vulnerability of men. She is the creator, writer, director and choreographer.

As a parallel career to her dance projects, Rea has maintained a private psychotherapy practice for 15 years. The wellspring of Men’s Circle was inspired by her own clients. Her life progression has been a journey from a troubled ballerina with an eating disorder, to a well-adjusted mother of two.

Rea studied at Canada’s National Ballet School, and was a professional dancer in Canada and Europe until she was 30. She performed with Ballet Jorgen, the National Ballet of Canada, and Tiroler Landestheater in Innsbruck, Austria. According to Rea, her body was too voluptuous for ballet standards, so her solution was bulimia. From the age of 15 to 25, her life was dominated by the eating disorder. Only during her last five years as a dancer did she have her health back.

Frames of Control (1996) choreographed by Kathleen Rea
Photo by David Hou

Her interest in psychotherapy was an outgrowth from her battle with bulimia, and she practices a specific type of arts-based treatment. Her acclaimed work Frames of Control (1996) signalled her victory over both the eating disorder and her poor body image. The clever ending featured a naked Rea jumping through a door frame to freedom. The ballet years also took their toll in other ways. Rea stopped dancing when her knees ran out of cartilage. Happily, she discovered contact improvisation, which allows her to keep moving, as it were. As a choreographer, she regards herself as a storyteller.

The Interview

We should really start with how and why you became a psychotherapist since there is a direct connection to your new piece Men’s Circle.

When I sought out treatment for my eating disorder, I looked for arts-based therapy because I’m an artist. Most therapies for eating disorders involve a reward system through food, but my treatment involved working out problems through the arts – healing through the arts, and I fell in love with it. I studied at The Create Institute which offers a three year Masters program in expressive arts therapy training. It’s affiliated with the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. I spent the winters in Toronto and the summers at the school. My Master’s thesis ultimately grew into my book, The Healing Dance: The Liife and Practice of an Expressive Arts Therapist, which was published in 2013.

Can you give me an example of arts-based therapy?

Having the client draw pictures as a way of expressing a problem. Telling stories opens up new perspectives.

You call yourself a storytelling choreographer. Can you explain?

 I first fell in love with ballet through the amazing stories it told through movement. In contemporary dance, stories are not popular, but all my dance pieces have a narrative line. The stories in Men’s Circle are told through text, song and dance. Tristan Whiston is my dramaturge, and we’ve worked on nine projects together. He helps me with the script, and sits with me in rehearsals making sure that the stories are getting told. He works on acting moments with the dancers.

How did you discover contact improv?

Bill Coleman
Photo by Olya Glotka

I had done some contact in Innsbruck so I was familiar with it. When I came back to Canada in 2000, I missed the feeling of family that you get from dancing in a company. I founded the Wednesday Contact Jam at Dovercourt House so I could be surrounded by a community of dancers. About 30 to 40 people show up each Wednesday, and I bring in a different musician each time to provide the live music that we move to. Dancing with people makes me so happy. I also teach contact at George Brown College.

What is it that you love about contact?

For me, it’s about following momentum, in your own body or with a partner. In contact you’re a momentum surfer.

Besides your clients being an inspiration, Men’s Circle also has a connection to your oldest son.

Wyatt, who’s seven, was diagnosed with high functioning autism. In marking his symptoms, I saw that I checked all the boxes when I was younger. I was extremely sound sensitive and socially awkward. It explains many things about my life. When there is an autistic meltdown, I know that we have to be removed from the sensory overload. I know what situations we have to avoid. Autism does not mean that something has to be fixed. Autism does not mean that you have to figure out what’s wrong. Autism means you accept what you have to do. One of the characters in Men’s Circle is inspired both by my son and by my own experience.

Photo by Olya Glotka

Men’s Circle is all about vulnerability. You certainly have taken a very sympathetic approach to the male experience.

There’s not a lot of room in our culture for talking about men’s vulnerability issues. The Movember movement, which wants to raise awareness about men’s mental health, calls the suppression of male emotions and feelings “the silent epidemic”. Suicide is the number one cause of death in men between the ages of 19 and 35. As well, men make up 75% of all suicides in Canada. The discussions about rape culture and accusations of sexual assault and harassment where women are victims dominate the news, but there is a “nurturance” gap in terms of men – by that I mean the physical and emotional nurturing of men. If we taught boys compassion and empathy, if we let boys cry, there would be less women victims. We have to create a world for boys that is not so narrow. We need to have a bigger conversation about men and vulnerability. Men’s Circle is about letting men tell their stories – giving them a voice.

Since your piece is storytelling, there must be characters.

There are seven characters, each with his own vulnerability. All of them belong to the same therapy group. Actually, the idea of a therapy group came later because I needed a connective tissue to link the stories together. The narrative follows the characters as they go through their individual journeys which all involve a learning curve. I gave them regular guy names so the audience could relate to them.

Rehearsal photo by Olya Glotka

Can you describe each man?

Joe holds back on his emotions, hiding behind bravado humour. He learns to weep. Kevin is high functioning autistic, a music savant who still lives with his parents. He loses his virginity and learns how to make friends. Matt is the most unstable and his emotions overflow. He becomes suicidal, but then he does find some grounding. Ran is the youngest. He’s at the group because it is court-mandated. He was caught selling drugs, and feels he’s “too cool for school”. Hercules grew up in a rough neighbourhood where he saw a lot of death. He wants a career as a ballet dancer, and is a perfectionist because he believes that, for a black man to get ahead, he has to be better than everyone else. He has faced systemic racism. Frank is the ghost of a client who killed himself, and he follows the therapist around. He can’t leave until the therapist forgives himself. And finally, Michael is the therapist, and he needs healing too. Frank was in a previous group. He had called the therapist for help, but Michael was too late to stop Frank’s suicide. When Michael is finally able to forgive himself, he can help the men in his present group. Incidentally, Harold Tausch who plays the therapist started a men’s support group 25 years ago, and it’s still going strong. (For the performances, the role of the therapist was played by Paul Lewis, due to Mr. Tausch’s illness.)

How do these stories play out in choreography?

The other dancers are support people for each story. For example, Matt comes from an unstable family, and this is shown through the other dancers lying on the floor, and Matt walking on the unstable surface of their bodies. Or, Joe reveals he failed grade two, so they all celebrate with a failed grade two party.

Contact improv is done in the moment. How is this handled in Men’s Circle?

Rehearsal photo by Olya Glotka

The show will be different at each performance because 25% is completely improvised. It’s structured improv so there are rules. For example, the dancers are given an emotional task and a specific shape that is different each night, and that they have to work out. There is also the breath canon. A dancer can only breathe when they touch a different part of a person’s body each time, or touch a different person. They perform in their underwear and they look both beautiful and vulnerable. The most impactful kind of theatre is when someone on stage doesn’t know what to do because its spur of the moment. It’s enhanced vulnerability.

You’ve got some really well-known dancers like Allan Kaeja and Bill Coleman. How did they happen to be in the piece?

All of them come to the contact jam. That’s how I know them. I just asked them to work with me, and they all said yes.

Men’s Circle, presented by REAson d’être dance productions, Betty Oliphant Theatre, Nov. 3-5. Tickets: www.reasondetre.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dance Preview: Catching up with Matjash Mrozewski – the choreographer/director has two premieres

Introduction to Matjash Mrozewski

The next two weeks feature two Mrozewski premieres. Future Perfect Continuous, created with Anna Chatterton, (ProArteDanza, Nov. 1-4), and Abiding, a solo for Evelyn Hart (Older & Reckless, Nov. 10 & 11).

Mrozewski graduated from the National Ballet School in 1993. During his career as a dancer, he performed with the National Ballet of Canada, Le Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, and Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. Early on he had shown a penchant for choreography, and his promise was revealed in the widely acclaimed A Delicate Battle created for the National Ballet of Canada in 2001. That year he stopped dancing, and given his enormous gifts as a dancesmith, it was expected that he would launch a successful international career. The proof lies in his creations for over 13 ballet companies that span the globe. He also choreographed for films, flash mobs, galas, classical music concerts and musicals. The road ahead seemed very clear – a lauded career as an international choreographer.

While the dance pathway is still very much in his life, Mrozewski has also added a new skill set. In 2016, he graduated from the two-year York University/Canadian Stage MFA program, whose focus is large-scale theatre direction. Subsequently, he has directed Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors in High Park, and Jordan Tannahill’s Botticelli in the Fire, which won a Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Production, and netted Mrozewski an Outstanding Direction nomination, which joins his two Dora nominations for Outstanding Choreography.

Mrozewski’s world premieres for ProArteDanza and Older & Reckless, which debut over the next two weeks, reflect both his choreographic and theatrical hats. (Note: in the next few months, he also has new dance and/or theatre pieces for Ryerson University, George Brown Theatre School, the George Randolph Academy, and a Secret Shakespeare performance.)

The Interview (where upon Mrozewski, now 41, talks about his MFA and his two new pieces).

Let’s begin with your going back to school. That was a big bite of two years out of your life.

I had been a dance professional for 20 years, but at that point, I felt I needed to take stock of where I was in my career. I needed different challenges. I had a hunger to learn something new – to step away from the obvious track. A lot of needs were colliding together, and the MFA program seemed to provide a solution.

Why stage direction?

I had always had an instinct for text, and I felt that this MFA course would put me in touch with the tools I needed to work with language and dramaturgy – to develop my theatrical side. It would also open doors to the worlds of theatre and opera. My main motive was a desire to become an opera director – it still remains a strong interest.

How different was it to work with actors?

I love working with actors, because I really enjoy analyzing text. With dancers, you guide them from the outside. With actors, you give them clues to manifest ideas internally. Words are concrete and can get to the heart of things, while movement deals with abstract states. When I started the MFA program, my eye was strong but my ear was weak. The greatest lesson I learned was how to lift the text off the page – to develop a point of view about what the playwright is trying to say. I was clear in my mind on the “why” of the text, but I had to learn to articulate these thoughts in words.

Your ProArte piece, Future Perfect Continuous, is certainly text driven, which is a departure for the company.

Artistic director Roberto Campanello wanted to push his dancers in new directions, and he thought they were ready for that kind of stretch – the marriage of text and movement. In truth, the performing arts are all playing in the same zone. The walls are blurring between the disciplines, and I had been moving in this direction. A recent work I did for the National Ballet School included a long spoken monologue, while a new piece for Ballet Kelowna used the dancers’ voices.

How did you come to work with playwright/librettist Anna Chatterton on Future? She’s a really creative force in both the theatre and opera worlds.

A mutual friend suggested her, and I saw her work Quiver at Buddies. She’s certainly very versatile. We met for dumplings and really got along. In our first workshop, it was inspiring to watch Anna toss around language and text.

What is your point of departure for the piece?

Anna and I started with a discussion about the future – what in our lives were we most concerned about? For both of us, the question was, how do hope and optimism cope with denial and ignorance? We discovered that the place of hope was high in both our lives. It was important, however, that we not make the work a lecture. The dancers are not on a soapbox. We wanted to leave room for the audience to reflect on the subject, to relate to the dancers in their feelings of frustration and inadequacy, to think about the concerns we raise. Things are not tied up neatly.

 

Just how much text do the eight dancers have to deal with?

 

It’s 35 minutes long, and contains about 25 minutes of spoken word, which includes monologues and conversations. The dancers are really meeting the challenge of moving and talking. The audience is going to need their ears opened as much as their eyes to catch what they’re listening to.

What’s the choreography like?

It’s not classical dance, but there is still formality in the structure. It’s very physical – ritual-like gesture, floor work, contact partnering. It’s fluid, responsive and quite earthy.

What about Anna’s text?

The dancers are seen working out their frustrations about the future in both rage and hope. As the size of the problems facing them grows, the text descends into doubt and vagueness and incomplete sentences. It’s very human. It’s about life. There is also humour, which is one of Anna’s trademarks.

Did you fit in music with the text?

The underscore is an orchestral version of songs by the alternative British rock supergroup Minor Victories.

Let’s talk about your Older & Reckless piece for the great ballerina Evelyn Hart, although in terms of dance, she’s a senior citizen.

Claudia Moore, O & R’s artistic director, wanted Evelyn on the program, and she thought of me as choreographer. Like Evelyn, I’ve had the experience of ups and downs. The solo is a character study of a woman of a certain age, which utilizes Evelyn’s remarkable skill as a dramatic actress. I’ve set it to a luminous Handel aria.

Is Evelyn still a perfectionist? She used to demand a lot from her choreographers and dance partners.

We spent ten hours in a rehearsal room, meeting once a week. Dancers are trained to make choreography work, but with Evelyn, if something didn’t fit right, we fixed it. She’s very organic, quiet, delicate and powerful. Abiding is about her in this moment. Because it’s a piece for Older & Reckless, time has a bearing.

ProArteDanza, Fleck Dance Theatre (Nov. 1-4); Older & Reckless #40, Harbourfront Centre Theatre (Nov. 10 and 11); both shows are part of Harbourfront’s Next Steps Season (www.harbourfrontcentre.com/nextsteps).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall for Dance North Festival, Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 – Backgrounder

ffdn5Toronto used to be awash in national and international dance, but over time, financial problems led to the demise of key dance series. That is why Fall for Dance North is one of the best things to happen to the local dance scene in years.

FFDN is modelled after Fall for Dance, the storied series launched in 2004 by New York City Centre, the legendary home of performing arts in the Big Apple. With the idea of developing dance audiences, the premise is simple. Create programs with top-notch diverse dance companies, and charge only $10 a ticket, whether the front row of the orchestra or the last row of the balcony. Although the ticket price in New York is now $15, the format remains the same. Currently, the festival mounts five different programs over 10 nights. It is always an instant sell-out.

ffdn6Fast forward to Toronto, 2015, and Fall for Dance North. The visionary behind FFDN is 35-year-old, Turkish-born Ilter Ibrahimof who began his career in New York as an artists manager/agent before becoming a producer/presenter. In fact, for the last two years, he has been a curator – meaning helping to choose companies – for City Centre Fall for Dance. When Ibrahimof started his own management/presenting company in 2004, he relocated to Montreal (spurred on by a bad romantic break-up). By sheer coincidence, as of a couple of months ago, he now lives in Toronto because his life partner was accepted into law school here.

So what is the genesis of the northern version of Fall for Dance? Ibrahimof says it was sheer impulse. “I felt that Toronto was ripe for this kind of festival mode,” he relates. That impulse also coincided with a 2013 meeting with Mark Hammond and Madeleine Skoggard of the Sony Centre’s programming department. The encounter took place at a booking conference in New York; the Sony duo were looking for talent, and Ibrahimof was there as an agent selling talent. Ibrahimof’s idea of a Toronto version of Fall for Dance fell on willing ears, with Skoggard making it a pet project. Ibrahimof then came to Toronto to check out the Sony Centre, liked what he saw, and knew he had a venue. Fall for Dance North was incorporated as a not-for-profit company.

ffdn8What is quite astonishing is how Ibrahimof and Skoggard got FFDN ready in just two years, particularly since Ibrahimof virtually knew no one in the city. “I had to start by getting the dance community onside,” he explains. “You can’t drop a dance festival in the middle of a city and ruffle feathers. You need their support.” That meant starting at the top and approaching the National Ballet first. With Karen Kain giving the National’s seal of approval, Ibrahimof and Skoggard had to then create a board of directors. They also met with the various arts councils and funding bodies to explain what the festival was about, which was followed by the onerous task of writing grant applications. Most of the $650,000 budget has been raised, but to help cover a $50,000 shortfall, Ibrahimof has come up with a great plan – sell 20 of the best seats in the house for $500 each, which includes a tax receipt, backstage tour, and a signed, framed poster.

ffdn7FFDN’s tickets are $10, and there are two programs over three nights. Future festivals will be half Canadian and half international, but this festival debut is slightly more Canadian. The statistics are impressive – eleven companies that run the gamut from contemporary ballet and modern dance, to capoeira, flamenco, tap, South Asian and Aboriginal; two companies making Canadian debuts and one a Toronto debut; two world premiere commissions; and six performances accompanied by live music. The shortest piece is a three-minute solo, while the longest is a 32-minute ensemble for 19 dancers. Ibrahimof chose 90% of the repertoire, knowing exactly what he wanted to see on the stage.

ffdn4Education is an important component of FFDN, and is also a concrete way of involving the dance community. Dance Collection Dance, a Toronto group whose focus is dance history, has put together videos of Canadian dance performances which are being shown on flat screen TVs in the Sony lobby. The house programs, in partnership with The Dance Current, contain a dance guide to the whole Toronto dance season, as well as comprehensive notes on the performing companies and repertoire. There are also master classes and artists’ talks.

ffdn3Says Ibrahimof: “My dream is to have Fall for Dance North run four nights, with three unique programs featuring 15 to 20 companies – two programs at the Sony Centre, and one more adventurous program at a smaller theatre. This tried and true format attracts young audiences which is exciting. Any audience member in their twenties will not have experienced an international dance series in Toronto in their lifetimes. It is the right festival, at the right time, for the right city.”

ffdn1Program 1 (Sept. 29, 7:30).

The National Ballet of Canada (Ballet)

Toronto Dance Theatre (Modern)

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (Contemporary)

Nrityagram (Toronto Debut/Classical Indian Odissi)

Inter-Hoop (Festival Commission/Aboriginal)

Atlanta Ballet (Canadian Debut/Contemporary Ballet)

 

ffdn2Program 2 (Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 7:30).

Ballet BC (Contemporary Ballet)

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (Contemporary)

Dance Brazil (Capoeira)

Peggy Baker and Sarah Neufeld, violinist of Arcade Fire (Festival Commission/Modern)

Dorrance Dance (Canadian Debut/Tap)

Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company (Flamenco)

 

 

Dance Review – Kevin O’Day’s Hamlet

Given the fact that ballet audiences are notoriously conservative, Karen Kain has taken a huge chance on Kevin O’Day’s Hamlet. In particular, composer John King’s original score is of the snap, crackle and pop variety, much like Thom Willems’ music for William Forsythe. The choreography is relentlessly contemporary ballet, filled with flexed feet and angular arms. Nonetheless, the opening night audience seemed to be exceedingly positive, especially toward Guillaume Côté in the title role.

O’Day is American so Hamlet must have been on his high school curriculum somewhere. On the other hand, he did dance with Forsythe’s Frankfurt Ballet, and since 2002, he’s been artistic director of Mannheim’s National Theatre Ballet so he will have soaked up German influences. In fact, this work was created for Stuttgart Ballet in 2008, a home for contemporary ballet on the edge if ever there was.

I deliberately did not read the scenario, waiting to see how the ballet would unfold – in other words, to find out how well-defined a storyteller O’Day is. His Hamlet shows that he clearly knows Shakespeare’s characters and their relationships. There is no revisionism when it comes to the conversion of the tragedy to dance. To get around the band of actors, he cleverly transforms the troupe into Two Travelling Dancers (Elena Lobsanova and Dylan Tedaldi) to re-enact the story of the murder of Hamlet’s father.

One other innovation is the eight-member corps de ballet who when they are not courtiers, don veils over their faces to become omens of death, or furies within Hamlet’s conscience, or agents to spur on revenge, or symbols of tragedy. Their impact is too little, too late, and they are a weak link in terms of theatrical effects. For example, during the final duel scene, they form a clump on the upper gallery and perform a slow march the length of the tier while Hamlet and Laertes (McGee Maddox) are engaged in a life and death struggle below. At first they are distracting, and then they become invisible as one’s attention focuses on the fight.

As for the choreography, O’Day (whom himself was a star with Twyla Tharp and well-acquainted with her choreographic challenges), has created a bravura role in Hamlet. Any male dancer is going to look like a stand-out given the physical twists and turns he must negotiate. There are three long solos that are all a gymnastic/acrobatic tour de force. O’Day seems to love slow lunges and elongated stretches that lead into fast turns and showy jumps. Out-thrust limbs propel the body in multi-directions, asking the dancer to bend like a contortionist. Côté has the technique to pull the choreography off smartly and the acting skills to nuance character. For example, his first solo is almost that of a spoiled brat having a tantrum, sitting by his father’s grave, hugging his knees, and then letting his arms and legs flay about. His rage is palpable – he is a man torn between duty and will.

The partnering looks dangerous which is always a crowd pleaser. In Hamlet’s pas de deux with Ophelia (Heather Ogden), the poor girl is lifted overhead with split legs, to fall upside down – a favourite manoeuvre of O’Day’s to the point of excess repetition. Yet O’Day is able to build in emotional differences. A tender first duet with Ophelia, followed by one of Hamlet’s rejection when he feels she has betrayed him as a spy for her father Polonius (Jonathan Renna) and his uncle Claudius (Jiri Jelinek). With Gertrude (Stephanie Hutchison), there is warmth between mother and son, albeit strained. The dances between Gertrude and Claudius, on the other hand, are brimming with sexual undercurrents.

O’Day has also created two showy roles for both Claudius and Laertes, and in both Jelinek and Maddox, he has exceptional dancers. Jelinek is sophisticated and sexy, and cuts a commanding figure on the stage. He radiates control and O’Day has given Claudius strong, bold moves to reinforce that persona. Maddox’s Laertes has all the exuberance of youth with superfast spins and jumps. Yet his grief over the death of both father and sister rings true. Both dancers are also excellent actors.

Ogden is a strong technical dancer, yet she manages to submerge her strength in Ophelia’s frailty, which is not an easy thing to do. O’Day has her execute some strange things, such as punch her head into Hamlet’s stomach in the rejection pas de deux, which we take to be her desperation to find his love again. She is certainly tossed about by Hamlet, both in affection and rejection, with overhead cartwheels and awkward flexes in her body, but she radiates vulnerability throughout. Her suicide scene is quite poignant.

Hutchison’s Gertrude shows the woman’s weaknesses, attempting to walk that fine line between lust for Claudius and mother’s love for Hamlet. Her choreography is reactive, a feather in the wind, giving in to both lover and son. Hutchison has always been a very intelligent dancer, and she once again shows her ability to understand what is required of her in terms of Gertrude’s personality.

Horatio (Brendan Saye) is an interesting role. He has to show a strong presence as Hamlet’s companion, plus perform the final solo of the ballet which could be anticlimactic. Saye is certainly someone to watch. He seems to be a dancing actor of keen intelligence as well as possessing a flawless technique. Horatio’s choreography is one of formality and correctness, but Saye is never stiff. His Horatio is eloquent in his concern for his friend, and after Hamlet’s death, noble in his grief.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Robert Stephen and Christopher Stalzer) are the fun roles, full of spice and vinegar – jokesters of a dangerous type. Renna’s Polonius is upright and correct, yet always in the moment. As for the Two Travelling Dancers, they have to be sprightly, energetic and very technical which Lobsanova and Tedaldi are. Tedaldi is another one to watch. Kevin D. Bowles has fun drumming bone on skull as the comic relief Gravedigger, and it’s nice to see Peter Ottmann on stage as the stately Osric, the referee of the Hamlet/Laertes duel.

Tatyana van Walsum’s set is very stark. The lower walls are a burnt orange, while the stage itself is surrounded by a meshed upper gallery accessed by two steel staircases. Both the upper tier and the lower stage have concealed doors in the blackness. O’Day has elected to place various characters in the upper gloom to foretell of things to come, like Polonius and Claudius spying on Hamlet. Or else they are dimly lit behind one of the upper doors as a symbol of doom. In fact, I find Mark Stanley’s lighting design too dark over all, and I doubt if audiences in the fifth ring are going to be able to see specific staging details. There are also two exceedingly ugly drops, a see-through puce green scrim at the front, and a clearer-coloured one at the back. Both have some weird kind of design that look like cow hide colouring. If there is some kind of design symbolism, it eludes me.

As for van Walsum’s costumes, she has opted for a smart contemporary look. Hamlet, of course, is in black, with a very attractive mesh sweater top and slightly baggy trousers. The other men wear much the same design but in different colours. The women are in short dresses or skirts. I do have one complaint, however. Claudius’ burnt orange costume is similar to the colour worn by Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern. I realize it shows they are on the same side, but it means that Claudius loses his distinctive presence on stage, while Laertes’ gray and Horatio’s blue stand-out amid the crowd.

As for King’s score, which is part recorded and part live, it mostly comes in short bursts of electronica sounds, or brief spurts of orchestral chords. One does begin to feel over time that it would be nice to have a flow, a continuum, a run of music, no matter how dissonant the noise. It feels that the music never gets really started before it stops. Conductor David Briskin comes up to the plate in pulling the live and recorded forces together. One of the trombonists gets a special bow for, presumably, his blasts on the horn. The best part of the score is the disco beat of the court party when the Two Travelling Dancers appear.

So, on a first go round, how does Hamlet fare? The ballet has some great roles, particularly for the men. It’s a North American premiere which makes it unique to the National on this side of the Atlantic. While Hamlet has eye-catching, edgy choreography, it does, unfortunately, suffer from repetition, especially in the first act. One can, however, live with the score because the choreography is relatively strong. More to the point, Hamlet shows off the company well. It should have a shelf life because it does demand repeated viewings, which is always a good sign. I left wanting to see Hamlet a second time (as opposed to never again).

Hamlet, National Ballet of Canada, choreographed by Kevin O’Day, Four Seasons Centre, Jun. 1 to 10, 2012.