National Ballet stars channel Jets vs. Sharks in Robbins tribute opener
Last Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 | 3:49 PM ET
Dancers with the National Ballet of Canada will trade in their tutus next week for the company's season-opening tribute to New York dance great Jerome Robbins.
Beginning Nov. 8, the Toronto-based ballet troupe will perform a mixed program of three Robbins works, including his famed West Side Story Suite, inspired by his choreography for the beloved musical, which he also directed.
The National Ballet's Brett van Sickle, Piotr Stanczyk and James Leja in West Side Story Suite.
(Cylla von Tiedemann/National Ballet of Canada)
The company's performances will mark the first time West Side Story Suite has been staged by a company outside of his native New York.
"Jerome Robbins is one of the greatest choreographers of his time. It's the 10th anniversary of his death. I wanted to do an evening that was a tribute to him," artistic director Karen Kain told CBC News on Tuesday at a rehearsal of the program that was open to the media.
"Seeing all this coming to life is just a tribute to the great man … and an acknowledgment of the talent of the dancers in this company."
Aside from the street-inspired costumes for the contemporary Romeo-and-Juliet tale, the National's principal dancers will also be exploring Robbins's modern, jazzy movements and also have to do some singing for the approximately half-hour West Side Story Suite.
"It really pushes the dancers in a way that we haven't been challenged before in that we have to sing and dance, which is proving itself incredibly challenging but really exciting and really fun," principal dancer Greta Hodgkinson said in an interview Tuesday.
The Robbins triple bill, which the National Ballet will feature through Nov. 18, will also include Glass Pieces, which features music by Philip Glass and the Chopin-inspired In the Night.
The ballet shares its main performance space — the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts — with the Canadian Opera Company and has also dedicated its Nov. 8 performance to the memory of the COC's general director Richard Bradshaw, who died in August.With files from the Canadian Press
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