Bach, Glen Gould and María Muñoz in perfect symbiosis at the National Arts Centre!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo. María Muñoz, courtesy of the NAC

One would not be mistaken if one defined  María Muñoz as a  performance artist as much as a dancer. Her research with her collaborator Pep Ramis in the context of the production company Mal Pelo is clearly determined by the meeting of musical performance, by the creative links between lighting and space as well as by the transformative use of film that locates the dancer’s body on a screen at the back in a new mode of corporeal dialogue with these multiple elements.  Her moving presence on stage is fluid and beautiful to watch. It reveals baroque order juxtaposed with searing emotion, passages of strength and flowing romanticism. It appears to be responding to the rhythms of the allegro, the presto and the andante time signatures of the preludes and the fugues based on Glen Gould’s interpretation of portions of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier integrated into her work. In fact, we almost have the feeling Gould is really in the wings, mumbling over his keyboard as his fingers fly at a phenomenal rate.

It could be the way the dancer anticipates the arrival of a bass note reflecting the specific instrument style that Gould’s playing clearly imposes. During certain pieces, by lifting her hand in short clipped movements, she retrieves gestures of resistance or  gestures of a chef d’orchestre ready to interiorise the whole piano performance and retain the rhythmic and emotional energy of that event. It could also be the moment when the music fades and Muñoz is left on her own in the silence of empty space. Whatever takes place, Muñoz calls up the haunting softness of an ethereal being literally possessed by these multiple forms of expression who speak to each other and propel her body forward on the stage.


Exquisite 2016-17 Dance Programme Coming Next Season: Cathy Levy Brings the Best in International and National Dance to the National Arts Centre.

News from Capital Critics Circle

Virginieunspecified  Photo: Penguin.JPG    Virginie Brunelle.

Cathy Levy established an NAC Associate Dance Artists program in 2007, with the goal of creating a community of artists and giving them an opportunity to meet and explore ideas with each other and with some of the greatest dance artists from around the world. Three of these eleven Associate Dance Artists will be featured on a special evening entitled The Associates in March of 2017. Work by Marie Chouinard, Crystal Pite, and Christopher House, will no doubt delight audiences.

NAC Dance is also proud to present Les Grands Ballet Canadiens de Montréal and The National Ballet of Canada as well as co-produce new work by Montreal’s Virginie Brunelle.  We also have the chance to celebrate Canadians working abroad with Germany’s Gauthier Dance, founded by Canadian Dancer Eric Gauthier.


Photo: Regine Brocke, Gauthier Dance.


Highlights include return visits by international superstar Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and his company Eastman, NAC Associate Dance Artists Crystal Pite, Marie Chouinard and Christopher House; Montreal’s Virginie Brunelle, America’s dazzling Hubbard Street Dance Chicago; and Israel’s incomparable Batsheva. Shanghai Ballet returns after a long absence, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo returns with their unique flare as well Albert Ballet with their festive special The Nutcracker; and The National Ballet of Canada makes their annual visit with Onegin, an exquisite romantic classic.


The Sleeping Beauty: this dazzling spectacle drizzled in gold is a feast for the eyes.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


Photos. Courtesy of the Hong Kong Ballet.

En route to New York City this year, the Hong Kong Ballet’s s dazzling production of The Sleeping Beauty, is currently making a three-day stopover in Ottawa at the the National Arts Centre. Under the keen eye of guest director Cynthia Harvey, former principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre and whom I saw as guest professor and coach of classical variations at this year’s edition of the Prix de Lausanne in February, the visual interpretation of the Petipa choreography became the focal point of this grandiose performance. Such a wealth of stylistic effects, inspired by the ceremonies that defined the French court of Louis XIV, made an eye-catching show of razzle dazzle with Tchaikovsky’s music under the direction of Judith Yan, Artistic director of the Guelph symphony orchestra. Fabulous wigs, enormous dresses that swung and swooped across the stage, shining satin jackets, glittering chandelier’s, crowds of little nymphs and glowing fairies, dresses of delicately transparent material. Everything was drizzled in gold and covered in sequins. Even when the style changes 100 years later in Acts II and III, the movements of the courtiers as well as the costumes, were adapted to the new time frame and the tastes of the local Hong Kong population.


Hofesh Shechter’s Barbarians. An Immense range of styles that has “no meaning”?

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

the barbarians in love Gabriele Zucca GAB1168

Photo: Gabriele Zuca

It appears that this autumn, London’s Royal Opera House season begins with Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice directed by Hofesh Shechter . It is the choreographer’s directorial debut which can only make one imagine the most glorious of visual moments in the performance. Hofesh will also be doing the choreography of a Broadway revival of Fidler on the Roof, premiering in December. All these events emphasize the enormous versatility of this choreographer, whose trilogy Barbarians opened last night at the NAC. None of this news is surprising because this choreographer took us through an immense range of musics, rhythms, performance styles and relationships with the audience that are rarely seen during a single evening of any dance company.


Adventures of a Black Girl: a fascinating retelling of Black Canadian History that feeds off the multiple elements of oral performance.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


Photo: NAC English Theatre.

This exciting coproduction of the NAC English Theatre/Centaur Theatre Company in association with the Montreal Black Theatre Workshop plunges us into a world where   choreographed singing bodies take over the stage and fill the space with a retelling of Black Canadian history.  Filtering the  main moments  into rituals of death fused with  Judeo-Christian and African origin, playwright and director  Djanet Sears has created an all-encompassing performance locating   the characters squarely in Canada but she creates an exciting dialectic by  correcting the ignorance the misconceptions, and the prejudices that  tainted white perceptions of  Black history in this country.


THe Adventures of a Black Girl: an ambitious but unsatisfying struggle

Reviewed by Patrick Langston



Photo: Black Theatre Workshop

The struggle to find and hold onto that hope, love and faith impels the action and characters of Adventures, an ambitious and, in the production that opens the new NAC English Theatre season, ultimately unsatisfying show that blends drama and comedy with song and movement, the ever-present spectre of death amid the bloom of life, and the story of a family and its community.

  • The play (its name comes from a George Bernard Shaw short story) premiered in 2002, launching Toronto’s black Obsidian Theatre company. It was then picked up for several months by Mirvish Productions. The current revival, directed by Sears as was the première, played Montreal’s Centaur Theatre before coming to the NAC.

    With its cast of 22, the play is set in a 200-year-old black community in southern Ontario. At its heart are Rainey, a young black woman played by Lucinda Davis, and her aging father Abendigo.

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    Trisha Brown Dance Company: as fresh and contemporary as ever.

    Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


    Photo: NAC    Set and Reset from the Trisha Brown Dance Company

    Ottawa audiences were treated to an exclusive Canadian engagement by the Trisha Brown Dance Company, presenting some of choreographer Trisha Brown’s seminal experiments in postmodern dance performance. Trisha Brown began creating work in 1960 and she formed her Dance Company in 1970 so the four short works we saw, ranging over a period of 28 years, from 1983 to 2011, actually represented important moments of most of her creative career. What stood out was the way they all spoke to each other, all echoing elements that appeared in each of the other performances, each one appearing so fresh, and contemporary, without the slightest hint that anything was dated or past its time. This form of dance-performance gives one the impression that her work represents  a constant process of intense research as it tries to position itself in relation to that which already exists but that is somehow insufficient and even stifling and has to be overcome.

    . Take If You Couldn’t See Me, featuring a single dancer who faces upstage the whole time. Dressed in a flimsy orange dress that glowed in those strong lights, she kept finding positions that foregrounded her arms, her legs, her hips, her shoulders until one suddenly realized that this performance was in the process of changing the spectators gaze. We are watching a body with no face, no eyes, no expression, no emotion and no psychological points of reference. It erases the narrative totally, covers the head in brown hair and deflects our gaze to the back of the body. What dancer has ever had to dance from that perspective before? We watch the creation of a new dancing body, .one that performs from the back using its shoulders, its feet, its heels, its buttocks and the fluttering skirt, …and Robert Rauschenberg’s lighting and costumes helped transform this flittering bit of sparkling orange light into a new moving being… Enchanting!


    PigeonsAffamés: à la biennale de Zones théâtrales.

    Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


    Photo: Théâtre du  Trillium

    PigeonsAffamés ..conçu par Anne Marie White, vocabulaire corporel et entrainement physique : Mylène Roi; une production du Théâtre du Trillium.

    Dance /théâtre/chanson/mime/choréographie/mouvement/sonorité/lumières qui font tourner la tête et vibrer les pulsations vitales…Curieuse rencontre entre le laisser aller et la discipline parfaite, entre les rythmes d’une jeunesse confuse et effrénée- et la contrainte d’une foule de corps obéissants. l’espace ou Étienne Decroux, Brigitte Haentjens et une boite disco se rencontrent! Que dire de plus??

    Présenté à la Biennale Zones théâtrales, à Ottawa. 18 -19 septembre, 2015.

    Tactics’ Programming at Arts Court

    News from Capital Critics Circle

    2015-2016 TACTICS Programming

    November 13-21, 2015      (off) Balance by Naomi Tessler
                                                 & feelers by Amelia Griffin
    January 22-30, 2016          A Little Fire by Megan Piercey Monafu
    March 11-19, 2016             Perfect Pie by Judith Thompson
    April 22-30, 2016               Woyzeck’s Head, produced by Third Wall Theatre

    All events take place at the Arts Court Theatre, 2 Daly Avenue, K1N 6E2
    8pm performances Wednesday to Saturday
    2pm matinees on the first Sunday and second Saturday of each run
    Panel discussions and other community engagement events are scheduled for the Mondays or Tuesdays during the middle of the production runs.
    2015-2016 Season Subscriptions are now on sale on at $85 for General Admission and $65 for Student/Senior/Artist. Single tickets for each production are on sale for $25 for General Admission and $20 for Student/Senior/Artist.


    Pontus Lidberg brings grace, beauty and new visions of the dance to the NAC

    Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


    Photo: Bunraku puppetry…

    Pontus Lidberg Dance – Written on Water and Snow

    The exciting Swedish dancer, choreographer and filmmaker, Pontus Lidberg has a long list of impressive accomplishments in all the above-mentioned fields , working with theatres and companies around the world.  He gives us beautiful as well as challenging creative moves with the human body. A magician who molds and choreographs his lithe corporeal instruments, most of whom appear to have serious balletic training which produces an extraordinary sense of discipline and breathtakingly supple interaction and a multitude of possibilities to be somatised on stage.


    Photo: Petrus  Sjovik.  Snow. with dancer and puppeteer.

    Written on Water was originally conceived as a pas de deux for the American Ballet Theatre. The plucking , sounds coming from Stefan Levin’s music, that seem to emanate  from industrial material working overtime in an urban setting, form a powerful soundscape that accompanies the two movements of this first piece. The two male dancers, Barton Cowperhwaite and Pontus Lidberg flow together in liquid harmony as they communicate competition, domination, eroticism, submission, disdain and various emotions and competitive stances, always entwined in abstract movements where the ballet base is redefined by modern steps, gestures, and corporeal choices, all conforming to the music, much in the style of Balanchine’s work. The second part of this show brings us back to a pas de deux with a man and woman where the classical balletic style conforms to a more traditional even lyrical vision of that dance form, in keeping with the traditional vision of the mixed gender couple . Nevertheless, there was always a flowing, sweeping grace that accompanied their work that gave one the sense it was all something new.


    Past Reviews