By Paula Citron
28 November 2019
The National Ballet of Canada Mixed Program/Piano Concerto #1 choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, Petite Mort choreographed by Jiri Kylian, and Etudes choreographed by Harald Lander, Four Seasons Centre, Nov. 27 to Dec. 1. Tickets available at national.ballet.ca/Tickets.
I continue to be in awe of Karen Kain’s programming skills, in particular, the way she finds links to bring diverse pieces together. In this very satisfying mixed evening of dance, the throughline is the piano. Two of the pieces are set to piano concerti, while the third is an orchestral arrangement of piano exercises.
The new kid on the block is Jiri Kylian’s off-pointe Petite Mort (1991) set to the slow movements of Mozart’s piano concerti Nos. 21 and 23. The term, petite mort, refers to orgasm, and one would think that the stage would be crackling with all manner of sexy and/or romantic moves, but that is not the case. The very physical, clinical choreography is in direct contrast to the shimmering, aching, melancholy quality of the music. But then, that’s Kylian, the brilliant Czech-born master who layers his pieces with a combination of wit and mystery.
The work is set on six women, six men, six fencing foils, five stand-alone, black, eighteenth-century dresses on rollers (symbolizing protective armour for the women?), and a large, billowing silk cloth (symbolizing bed sheets?) that is pulled over the dancers a couple of times during the piece. So controlled is the movement that Petite Mort calls for the big guns, and of the twelve dancers, six are principals (Elena Lobsanova, Skylar Campbell, Jillian Vanstone, Brendan Saye, Greta Hodgkinson and Guillaume Côté), four are first soloists (Jenna Savella, Donald Thom, Tina Pereira and Hannah Fischer), with second soloists Spencer Hack and Joe Chapman completing the roster.
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