The Royal Winnipeg Ballet
has opened its 73rd season with the Canadian premiere of The Princess & The Goblin
, a story full of hope and romance. I mean romance in a sense that
goes beyond the boy meets girl variety (although the ballet has a touch of that,
too). The romance I'm talking about addresses the idea of the redemptive power of
good over evil.
In Twyla Tharp
's adaptation of George MacDonald's 19th century
children's fairytale, Princess Irene, getting by with a little help from friends
and family, manages to pull the subterranean Goblin dancers up by their pointe shoes and
into the light. The Goblin people, who dress like homeless pirates, have the irritating
habit of kidnapping children and carrying them off to their dark kingdom.
and her companion, Curdie, set about to rescue the kids and in the process,
rehabilitate the nasty Goblin. They also teach them some fancy footwork, which
is where another species of romance enters the story. Tharp, a living legend in
the world of dance, has said we have lost a feel for romance in our cynical age,
and she uses this danced version of MacDonald's story as a way to reclaim that
The Garden Party scene is all sumptuous elegance and
the dancers who accompany Irene's Great-Great Grandmother and namesake, come
directly out of the romantic ballet blanc
tradition, all white and ethereal and
very, very pretty. The cut of their costumes also shows a flash of thigh, a wink
in the direction of Tharp's earlier and more frisky choreography.
Children are part of the cast in "The Princess & The Goblin" (Bruce Monk)
moments, too, in the pas de trios
with Curdie and a pair of female Goblin, when
we're reminded that Tharp can set some of the sexiest moves in contemporary
dance, but that tendency is underplayed here in favour of innocence and fun.
Princess & The Goblin
is, after all, a children's story and the bodies on
stage are meant to be looked at and not desired. Which is why Irene, performed
by Paloma Herrera, a leggy and easeful dancer who puts me in mind of Karen Kain,
moves about the stage in a constant state of surprised discovery. Like all
children, she is figuring out what the world is about and the charm of this
ballet is that it lets us as viewers in on her wonder.
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet's The Princess & The Goblin runs until Oct. 21 at the Concert Hall