In three weeks' time the National Ballet of Canada will arrive at London's Sadler's Wells. After a 26 years away from the capital The Times asked director Karen Kain why:
Until this season we hadn't been anywhere. Basically we didn't have the repertoire that was allowing us to get the invitations. I knew that part of what I needed to do to get the company seen again, or even heard of again, was develop the kind of repertoire that people wanted to see.
So what do people want to see? One of the hottest choreographers on the planet to be sure, so it will perform Alexei Ratmansky's Romeo and Juliet which he created for the company in 2011 to mark its 60th anniversary.
It took me three or four years to get Alexei but the wait was worth it; his production is really beautiful and touching, and the thing I love about him is that he still works in the classical idiom without trying to shred it, deconstruct it or throw it away. He puts classical steps together in a way you have never seen before. He's trying to make it more interesting, relevant and human. So it's ballet but it's more real.
The investment paid off: “A triumph of impassioned dancing and inventively challenging choreography,” said the Toronto Star.
We are trying to move the art form forward and you can only do that by trying new things. I'm bringing interesting people into our midst because you can't attract and keep good dancers unless they are interested in the repertoire; you need to keep a company pumped. And when I do something I'm proud of I would like the rest of the world to know about it.
And it's not only Ratmansky. Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was an extremely successful collaboration with the Royal Ballet; a collaboration which will continue next year with The Winter's Tale by the same creative team.
It's good to bring in someone who looks at your company with fresh eyes. It's what Nureyev did for me. I was the youngest principal in the company and the least experienced when he came to Toronto, and he did amazing things for me by educating me. Now it's my job to keep this company motivated.
Note: the full article contains comments by Ratmansky, and Kain's thoughts about co-productions.
Photo by Sian Richards
Romeo and Juliet by Alexei Ratmansky – April 17 – 21, 2013 – Sadler's Wells Theatre, London
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.