Last week I attended the Mad Hot Ballet gala performance at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto. The gala is held annually to raise funds for the National Ballet of Canada. The gala dinner is one of those $1500 a plate fundraising dinner things I can probably just keep dreaming about attending. My company has a table but for the life of me I couldn’t spot someone I recognized in the crowd so I have no lead on how to get an invitation! Anyway, I’m not sure why this is the first year I’ve bought a ticket to the performance. I’ve had a subscription to the ballet for three seasons now. I’m not sure I realized that you could go to the performance without attending the dinner.
The gala got me thinking about why I love ballet so much. My mother studied ballet as a child. She had an opportunity to go off and live with her ballet mistress to pursue it seriously but her father didn’t think a 12 year old should move away from home. When I was a child my mom asked if I wanted to take ballet. “No” I responded….and that was that. Do I regret it? Not really. Why? Well it’s like figure skating. I can’t do it myself so I’m impressed. I don’t know what the moves are supposed to look like but I don’t care. I know a fall is a mistake (and while that happens WAY more in figure skating than ballet, I have seen it happen once in ballet) but other than that, it’s a rare move where I think “hmmm, I think that was wrong”.
My mom took me to my first ballet when I was pretty young. I remember seeing “The Nutcracker” and liking it and I remember absolutely loving “Coppelia”. I remember taking my grandmother and aunt to the ballet (and to this day I still remember that my grandmother was impressed by dancer Kevin Pugh). A friend took me to “Swan Lake” years later. Then we went to see the Houston Ballet do “Dracula”.
In 2006, the National Ballet moved to the new Four Seasons Centre. I’m not sure what my first ballet was at the new venue but I know I went to see “Cinderella” with my friend Tracey in rush seats and we also went to a mixed repertoire that included “West Side Story” (which I think they should do as a full-length production).
For whatever reason, I decided to get a subscription to the ballet for the 2011/12 season. I bought the cheapest seats in Ring 5.1 which test my fear of heights every time I go! I figured I’d rather see all six productions in the subscription than buy one or two productions in the orchestra so I deal with it!
So from Ring 5.1 it really is hard to tell one dancer from another but some dancers still manage to stand out. I’ve become quite a fan of Guillaume Coté. My mother even refers to him as “your guy”. Guillaume’s talent radiates all the way to Ring 5.1. He’s also super cute which makes his wife, fellow dancer Heather Ogden, the luckiest girl in Toronto.
Guillaume is also one of the choreographic associates on the National Ballet’s staff so every now and then one of the short pieces that makes up part of a mixed repertoire night is one of his. I definitely prefer classical ballet pieces to the more modern stuff but Guillaume’s works are stunning. One in particular stood out this season “Being and Nothingness, Part 1” which starred Greta Hodgkinson. We will be lucky enough to see the full three parts next season!
As an aside, I follow a few dancers on Twitter and I get a great thrill whenever Guillaume favourites or retweets my Tweet! I’m like a 15 year old girl!!
Last fall my mom and I went to NYC and I decided to see if either the New York City Ballet or the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) was performing that weekend. I was delighted to see that ABT had a mixed repertoire that included “A Month in the Country” with Guest Artist Guillaume Coté!
I think that’s about the time I learned the term “balletomane”.
bal·let·o·mane noun \ba-ˈle-tə-ˌmān\
Definition of BALLETOMANE
: a devotee of ballet
— bal·let·o·ma·nia noun
Origin of BALLETOMANE
Russian baletoman, from balet ballet + -o- + -man, from maniya mania
First Known Use: 1930
Well I think it’s safe to say that I’m a balletomane.
Back to the gala…..the performance was made up of six pieces. The first was a piece by Robert Binet, the National Ballet’s other Choreographic Associate. The next four were pieces that Guillaume choreographed. The first “Body of Work” had premiered at the Governor General’s Gala a few weeks before in Ottawa. This piece features Guillaume alone with several light fixtures. The only word I have is “Wow!” In fact, I tweeted…
The second was a reprise of “Being and Nothingness (Part 1)” in which Greta was stunning. The third and fourth pieces were debuts and pure fun. Each was set to a Leonard Cohen song. “Tonight Will Be Fine” featured Corps de Ballet member Kathryn Hosier and Apprentice Felix Paquet. I saw Kathryn recently make her debut in “Le Spectre de la Rose” and I’m sure she’ll be promoted to Second Soloist soon. Both Felix and Kathryn were great in this number where they wore nude coloured body suits and their hair was coloured grey. “Dance Me to the End of Love” was a solo for Second Soloist Dylan Tedaldi.
The finale of the night was the Act II Pas de Deux from “Cinderella” featuring Guillaume and Sonia Rodriguez. “Cinderella” was the last regular production of the season. I switched my Saturday night ticket to the Sunday matinee to take my mother out for her birthday and so I could see Guillaume and Sonia in these roles. The pas de deux is beautiful and mesmerizing.
After the performances, there was a cocktail reception with drinks and hors d’oeuvres for all attendees. I snacked a bit and hung around, basically stalking the room for dancers. In the end, I think I accidentally interrupted a conversation between two dancers without realizing it until I walked away! Duh. The trumpets announced that dinner was starting and like the chiming of the clock for Cinderella that was my signal that it was time to leave the ball!
The first year I bought a subscription I asked if my mom would want to join me but she was travelling a lot at the time so it didn’t seem worth it. Over the three seasons I have managed to take her to a few shows with me. For Mother’s Day, I bought her a subscription for next season and I’m looking forward to having a companion. The first performance isn’t until November which is a VERY long time away so I decided to get a ticket to the end-of-season bonus “Romeo and Juliet” on Friday night. It should be a beautiful end to a great season.
All images (with the exception of the Tweet) copyright National Ballet of Canada.