Tag Archives: modern

The Four Seasons & Emergence: Ballet Review

Emergence by Crystal Pite; photo by Bruce Zinger.

The neoclassical The Four Seasons by James Kudelka and the very modern Emergence by Crystal Pite by the National Ballet of Canada complemented each other surprisingly well and showcased a diverse movement vocabulary. This double bill was, for lack of a better term, short and sweet, and so this review strives to be the same.

First up, The Four Seasons. It is choreographed to the famous music of Vivaldi and tells the story of a man through the years and changing seasons. The joy of spring, passion of summer, melancholy of fall, and harshness of winter parallel the evolution of life from the spontaneity of youth to maturity, and finally the reluctant acceptance of death. It is a little ballet very true to Mr. Kudelka’s style, very musical and fun. Though everyone performed well, it was principal Greta Hodgkinson dancing as ‘Summer” who enchanted the audience with her articulate artistic nuances, musicality, and daring in the fast paced, high flying partnering sequences. Here is an example of the professionalism that comes with experience, it was the best I had ever seen her and I feel very lucky to have witnessed the original ‘Summer’ dance before her retirement; her performance will be the one that I remember when seeing the piece again.

Greta Hodgkinson in The Four Seasons; photo by Andrew Oxenham.

After intermission, we watched Emergence, which according to the company’s website: “explores the notion of dance as an evocation of the broader, inherent human tendency to socialization”. While the piece does centre around the interactions of a large groups of dancers, it is presented with the inspiration of insects (I remember reading this somewhere). It begins with a one dancer in a skin-coloured leotard extending her limbs slowly from a curled position on the floor and being carried by a partner, as if a helpless larvae that has just entered the world. Like a colony, dancers emerge from a portal and swarm around the stage, and throughout sections mimic sharp twitches and tentative fluttering. The music is hard to describe, but reminds me at times of the droning of bees and the clicking of bugs feet across the floor. The movement quality is very intriguing and shows the extreme capabilities of the human body.

Dancers with the National Ballet of Canada present Emergence. Its large cast evokes a subterranean insect world, devoid of human romance or free will.

Emergence photo by Bruce Zinger.

As a female, I am reluctant to say this, but I believe that this is generally a guys’ piece. The girls are undoubtedly very strong, but the power of thirty or so men dancing the same inhuman, almost mechanical, movements together or in syncopation is unreal.  Ultimately, it the unison of the entire company that delivers a visual kick that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. (Literally, since I was sitting in 5th ring – which actually gave a really cool perspective of the piece – and was leaning out to see down to the stage.)

It is funny to see how taste changes within a couple of years. I declared that Emergence was my favourite modern piece back in grade 7 or so, and though I still love it, this time it did not knock my socks off as much as I anticipated. The Four Seasons, on the other hand, I liked with mediocre appreciation before, but enjoyed much more this time, being able to follow the intertwined emotional and musical themes. Nevertheless, the contrast between both ‘ballets’ makes for a refreshing viewing experience with good choreography and execution, so this mixed program is a winner.

Thanks for reading,
thebookybunhead

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Homo Religiosis: Hunting rituals and religion

In the Paleolithic age, a young boy is transformed into adulthood overnight through a terrifying process in the underground tunnels of Lascaux. Through fear, isolation, and the use of images, the experience allows him to recognize his powers and comprehend his purpose in life. He must face frightening ordeals such as traveling through a cramped tunnel in total darkness, being incarcerated and buried in the earth, and told that he would be eaten by a monster. The terror he experiences forces him to discover the inner strengths and resources that he was unaware existed within. Completely alone, he becomes conscious of his being and gains an understanding of life and death. Being stripped from everything familiar he knew above ground, he finds independence, and “is pushed into a new state of consciousness that enables him to appreciate the profound bonds that links hunter and prey in their common struggle for survival.” When the images of the cave are revealed, the boy is enlightened, both literally and spiritually; the artwork triggers timeless human emotions and thoughts that complete his initiation. The experience a young initiate undergoes gives him new knowledge, changing him into a man that is ready to hunt with sacred respect and sacrifice himself for his people.

Our religious experiences today are different because of our changing culture and needs. Our way of life has changed dramatically, and so has our society’s relationship to religion. The hunt sustained the ancient peoples, and so, to value and respect life was an essential part of their spiritual being. Today our world is sustained by money and production; our concerns no longer revolve around survival, but focus on consumerism. Our emotional response to the killing of animals and death are indifferent because we do not have understanding of those subjects on a personal level. The hunting rituals have lost their power in meaning because they are irrelevant to our cares and culture. The personal ties that the ancient peoples had in their respect for nature we now have for our technology and communication devices. An adolescent needs time to “find himself” today amongst the many choices and distractions around him, rather than “going into the tunnel” and searching for answers within. In our very busy world, personal reflection is difficult to experience and our identities are created, and our values dictated, by the technology and images around us. Primarily, religion has diminished because its importance to our being has been replaced by the many things that we can buy.

At the time, I did not realize that Homo Religiosis is a theory, not an essay, so if I find the work that this was inspired by or you happen to recognize it, please comment or link. This was written in 2011, and interestingly, after completely forgetting about it, I realize the content of a biology essay I wrote this year is very similar. My ideas have changed and developed since and I think it might be interesting to compare the two, so the other may be published in the future…

Thanks for reading,
-thebookybunhead

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