Volume 92, Issue 89

Wednesday, March 18, 1999


The Concrete Beat

Blur's risk with 13 truns into personal success

Philly five revives The Roots of hip hop

Vivaldi revitalized for its audience

Danko Jones knows he's still on top

Ralston Saul paves way for individuality

Comedy group Laughs

Ripley's version of Welsh animal music

Celebrity sightings

Vivaldi revitalized for its audience

By Clare Elias
Gazette Staff

The paradox facing The National Ballet of Canada is maintaining eloquence and aesthetic appreciation of the art form, while revitalizing its popularity. The classical ballet is falling out of the forefront, as musicals and theatre grow in numbers. This decline prompts a move from the traditional ballet to a more contemporary style, in not only its choice of productions, but also its choreography.

This transition is demonstrated by Jennifer Fornier, who will perform with Rex Harrington in Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, playing at the Grand Theatre from April 8-10. Choreographed by James Kudelka, this Vivaldi rendition interposes the classical temperament with provocative contemporary style.

"Kudelka removes the restrictions to classical ballet. He makes it different by making it scintillating," Fornier explains. "His use of the torso is very modern with the swing of the arms and the resistance in movement."

Kudelka works by bringing the two worlds together and unifies them into one succinct performance, which follows the life-journey of one man, played by Rex Harrington.

However, while The Four Seasons focuses on a single dancer, the choreography steers away from limelighting one, to giving the entire company the spotlight.

"During the '80s, ballet was star driven and this meant the work was left behind. The choreography took a back seat, but [Kudelka] works within the fine line between stars and the work and he lets the work stand on its own, without relying on the star," Fornier says.

Ballet is undergoing a necessary face-lift, as financial support from the government is decreasing. The arts community must therefore look to other outlets as their source for prosperity.

"What the audience wants, the audience will support on its own. Productions like Riverdance have no government funding, but people like Mike Harris don't go to the ballet so they assume it shouldn't be a part of others' lives," Fornier contends.

The 12-year veteran of the National Ballet offers a simple explanation for the popularity of these performances versus the declining attendance of the ballet. "They have an accessibility that people don't find in ballet. There is a familiar feeling in everyday dancing and ballet, well ballet has an abstract language," she explains. "The others are sweeter and easier to digest. But still, for ballet some people fall in love with it right away and stay with its passionate dancing."

While pessimism surrounds the current state of ballet, its future is optimistic. "[The National Ballet Company] is responsible to ensure ballet survives. We have to find a performance that will affect the audience because there's only so much PR work that can be done to promote it."

Fornier fuels the future of ballet, as she stands behind its purpose and its necessity.

"We have to remember, ballet has the same effect as Gweneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes." Even though the medium differs, the emotions do not.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999