Tours en l'air organizes ballet-themed escorted holidays to see the best companies perform great ballets in beautiful places. You can join a trip from anywhere. A highly knowledgeable balletomane who has enjoyed 100s of performances in over 20 cities around the world,I speak English, French, and German, and am a Travel Industry Council of Ontario certified Travel Counsellor. I also teach ballet appreciation courses.
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Monday, August 29, 2011

Ballet Trivia Quiz Answer Week 4

Balanchine once said: “I am a little leery of the word “inspiration”; I prefer the word ….”

c) deadline

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fall for Dance in NY

New York City Center has finally announced the lineup for its Fall for Dance festival. Click here for more info.

Weekly Ballet Trivia Quiz

Balanchine once said: “I am a little leery of the word “inspiration”; I prefer the word ….”

a) genius
b) money
c) deadline
d) work

Answer will be posted tomorrow.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ballet Trivia Quiz Answer Week 3

What colour is the background in most abstract Balanchine ballets?

d) blue

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Weekly Ballet Trivia Quiz

What colour is the background in most abstract Balanchine ballets?

a) purple
b) green
c) white
d) blue

Answer will be posted tomorrow.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ravello Festival

Judging from this photo by New York City Ballet Ashley Bouder, the venue for the Ravello Festival south of Naples is absolutely stunning, though ballerinas  might feel the desire to be cautious about those lifts in ballets like Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and Dances at a Gathering where they get tossed halfway across the stage.This summer's festival had Tyler Angle, Ashley Bouder, Joaquin De Luz, Megan Fairchild, Gonzalo Garcia, Sebastian Marcovici, Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck, Andrew Veyette and Amar Ramasar, perform Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, In the Night, Tarantella, Stars and Stripes and other pieces.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ballet Appreciation courses

Intro to the National Ballet of Canada season and History of Ballet. For information on my ballet appreciation courses this fall, click here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ballet Trivia Quiz Answer Week 2

The word “tutu” is derived from a French word meaning

b) buttocks

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Weekly Ballet Trivia Quiz

The word “tutu” is derived from a French word meaning

a) you
b) buttocks
c) killer
d) everything

Answer will be posted tomorrow!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Upcoming events in Toronto

I've just updated the Toronto Ballet and Dance Outings page. Opportunities to watch National Ballet School students in class, see the Red Shoes, and hear Karen Kain talk about the National Ballet of Canada's 60th Anniversary Season. Check it out and mark your calendars!

Bolshoi Ballet Broadcasts

Cineplex has announced its new season of Bolshoi broadcasts, some live, others "encore performances".
Admission Prices

General $ 19.95 + applicable tax
Senior $17.95 + applicable tax
Child $9.95 + applicable tax
Discount Season Tickets

Season – See 3 or more of the live performances - $15.95 + applicable tax each

Here is the schedule (links go automatically to the Toronto listings, but you can just type in the name of your city to find your local listings): For those outside Canada, the dates of the live broadcasts will be the same ("encore performance" dates may differ).

* Swan Lake

Sunday, September 11 - Encore Performance
Monday, September 12- Encore Performance
For tickets and theatre locations, click here

* Esmeralda

Sunday, October 9

The story of the Hunchback of Notre-Dame, with a very famous pas de deux. For tickets and theatre locations, click here

* Sleeping Beauty
November 20
November 21 - Encore performance
January 29 – Encore Performance
For tickets and theatre locations, click here

* The Nutcracker
December 18
December 19 – Encore Performance
For tickets and theatre locations, click here

* Le Corsaire
March 11
For tickets and theatre locations, click here

* The Bright Stream
April 29

A comic ballet by Alexei Ratmansky, set to music by Shostakovich. For tickets and theatre locations, click here

* Raymonda
June 24

Some of Petipa's most beautiful classical choreography, set to lush, tuneful music by Glazunov. For tickets and theatre locations, click here

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Trivia Quiz Answer Week 1

George Balanchine's Circus Polka (later rechoreographed by Jerome Robbins) was first choreographed for:

d) elephants

Monday, August 8, 2011

Weekly Ballet Trivia Quiz

This week I'm starting a new feature on the Tours en l'air blog: the weekly ballet trivia quiz. If you want to show off your balletomaniac credentials, you can answer in the comments (if not you can just wait till tomorrow for the answer!)
Our first question:

George Balanchine's Circus Polka (later rechoreographed by Jerome Robbins) was first choreographed for:
a) Suzanne Farrell
b) young students
c) horses
d) elephants
Answer will be posted tomorrow!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Festival des arts de Saint-Sauveur

The picturesque village of Saint-Sauveur, Quebec, nestled in the folds of the pine-clad Laurentians, a spot better known for skiing and summer outdoor activities than for dance, but the location for the past twenty years of the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur, which, under its artistic director Anik Bissonnette, goes from strength to strength bringing dancers from some of the world's best companies to perform in a circus-style tent. The village is, as you can see, a picture-postcard Québécois town, with the classic silver-roofed greystone church dominating the landscape, and the ski-jump roofs typical of habitant architecture. Like most resort towns, it has a main street ("rue Principale") lined with restaurants (I recommend Le sauvignon), clothing stores, ice cream shops, bakeries (I liked the date-filled "bear claws" at the Croissant Fou and the almond croissants at Pagé) and the like. You can take a tour in one of the horse drawn calèches found throughout tourist areas in Quebec. A factory outlet mall in faux-chalet style buildings on the edge of town provides opportunities for bargain shopping at Jones of New York, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, and many other brand names. I stayed at the Hotel St-Sauveur, about 5 minutes walk from the "Factoreries" (and the bus stop for the Galland bus company which provides three buses a day between Saint-Sauveur and Montreal) and 20 minutes walk from downtown, and was very impressed by my lovely room.
The performances take place in a "Grand Chapiteau" (circus tent) just off rue Principale about a block from the church. The tent is spacious but with only 20 rows of seats provides an intimate experience. It is air-conditioned, much appreciated on the first sultry night I was there. If you have mobility issues, be warned however that you should get a seat on the "even numbers" side of rows A-C, as these are the only seats which are accessible without climbing any steps. Attending a dance performance here was a great experience, one I hope to repeat next year.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gauthier Dance at Saint-Sauveur

The last program of my three-day ballet bash at FASS was Gauthier Dance from Stuttgart. I was particularly looking forward to this as I have known its director, Eric Gauthier, originally from Montreal, since he joined the Stuttgart Ballet in 1996 and have admired his determination and success with his small dance group in Stuttgart. Before the show, Eric gave a very charming introduction where he explained that he wants to make dance accessible to everyone, that you don't have to be a connoisseur of classical ballet to appreciate dancing, and that even the businessman in suit and tie who thinks he doesn't like dance when his wife drags him along to a performance will come away realizing that really he does. In particular, there is a tendency in German contemporary dance to be somewhat angst-ridden and impenetrable, with little sense of the fun that is evident in many Gauthier Dance productions.
Eric explained that the program was called "Lucky Seven" because of the seven very different pieces in the program, which are, as he said, like the seven colours of the rainbow in their variety. In each, the company of 8 (including Gauthier) proved to be both strong dancers and effective communicators.
My favourite was Hans van Manen's The Old Man and Me, depicting a relationship from seduction to separation. Although he originally choreographed the piece for Netherlands Dans Theater III (a company of dancers over 40), van Manen has allowed Gauthier to perform the male role "on condition that I dance it like a young man, not an old man, because I am still young". In the first section, the beautiful Isabelle Pollet-Villard, clad in an elegant purple velvet gown, tries all her teasing seductive wiles on Gauthier, who seems to remain unmoved. Then in the second section, danced to Stravinsky's Circus Polka (which coincidentally I had seen just two weeks before performed by young ballet students in Jerome Robbins' version), the sparks between the two fly. In the last section, set to the elegiac, yearning music of Mozart's 23rd Piano Concerto, the relationship becomes bittersweet. In a sort of stop frame effect, the stage lights go on and off, with the couple finding themselves further apart each time the lights come on again,and finally exiting opposite sides of the stage as the last melancholy and beautiful strains of the music fade away.
In a world premiere by Mauro Bigonzetti, Pietra Viva, the title "living stone" seemed to refer to the fact that dance is like a breathing sculpture. The two dancers achieved remarkable feats of balance while leaning on one another, stepping on one another's feet, and in two striking instances having Anna Suheyla Harms standing on William Moragas's chest while he, supine, rotated around.
Eric also gave us a fascinating insight into the solo he choreographed for himself, Carlito. 10 months ago his son was born, and he recounts how he sat in the delivery room holding his wife's hand during 15 hours of labour. The oval shaped room made him think of a bull ring, and his situation seemed to him to be like that of a matador, fighting to get the baby out. It occurred to him that flamenco would be a good dance style to depict the strains of labour.
The piece starts with him unfolding a towel as the delivery room nurses apparently do in German hospitals, this towel being used to wrap the baby when it is born. At the end, the flamenco song turns into a few bars of Brahms Lullaby, and Gauthier artfully wraps the towel around his forearm and cradles it like a baby.
Shutters Shut by NDT choreographers Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon is a duet set to a recording by Gertrude Stein of one of her poems. Though Lightfoot Leon created the role on a male and female dancer, when Paul Lightfoot saw the two couples that Gauthier had sent to learn the roles, he liked the male dancers so much that he felt it would work best on them. As a result, we see Armando Braswell and Rosario Guerra perform the piece, their rapid movements reflecting Stein's machine-gun recitation.
You can see snippets of all of the above pieces on Gauthier Dance's latest trailer (which also includes Kylian's Sechs Tanze, which wasn't on the Saint-Sauveur program):

The program finished with the humorous Orchestra of Wolves, in which an orchestra conductor comes to a bad end when conducting the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. The idea for this piece came from a discussion Eric had with the Stuttgart Ballet's music director about what it is like conducting such a powerful piece of music. The conductor said it was terrifying, feeling that the musicians will massacre him if he makes the slightest mistake with the movement of his baton. Gauthier therefore depicts the conductor as a bird facing a pack of wolves ready to devour him. You can see snippets of it in this video:

International Choreography Competition at Saint-Sauveur

On the second day of my stay in Saint-Sauveur, FASS was offering the finals of their international choreography competition, the three finalists being Josh Beamish from Vancouver, Jennifer Hart from Austin Texas, and James Gregg from Montreal, each producing a work about 30 minutes in length. Unfortunately the program didn't give any information on who the dancers were or what the music was. Josh Beamish's Allemande, set to Bach cello suites, a piece premiered earlier this year at New York's Joyce Theatre, was first up. You can see it here:

Next was Jennifer Hart's piece, the most balletic of the three and my favourite, for I felt it fitted its music (pieces by Philip Glass, I think, at least one of them being from In the Upper Room) the best. It finished with a beautiful soaring lift. You can see more of her work here:

James Gregg's piece was last, and turned out to be the audience favourite and the winner of the prize awarded by the jury of two newspaper critics from Montreal and one from Toronto. Here's James's demo reel:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

3e etage at Saint-Sauveur

This is my first visit to the Festival des arts de Saint-Sauveur in Quebec's lovely Laurentians region, an area of pine-clad hills north of Montreal. This dance festival, directed by Anik Bissonnette, brings small but prestigious troupes from around the world here for two weeks in July and August every year, to perform in a large circus tent. The metal supports of the stage unfortunately rattle every time someone jumps, but it's a nice intimate venue where you feel a definite connection with the dancers.
If you like watching men leaping about in tights, as I do, you should try to catch a performance by 3e étage, a group of 9 Paris Opera Ballet dancers led by Samuel Murez, who bring a quirky sensibility to classical ballet. In a recent interview with Victor Svoboda of the Montreal Gazette, Murez explained his motivation: “You come out after dancing La Sylphide and hop on your motorbike – there’s kind of a disconnection. So members of the Paris Opera Ballet are trying to find a way of being a dancer who’s more connected to the world we live in.”
They perform works by Murez which are entertaining and contemporary but exploit the impeccable classical training of the Paris Opera Ballet School, especially in works by Murez's anagramatic alter ego, Raul Zeummes, like La Valse Infernale, a show-off piece for whiz-bang technique, and the hilarious Quatre, in which four male dancers try to out-pirouette and out-grand-allegro one another, and at one point one of the danseurs heads into the audience to chat up one of the audience members:

In the performance I saw on July 31, Quatre unfortunately became Trois, as one of the dancers had injured himself in the first half of the performance, but the remaining three managed very well to fill in the gaps.
Other works on the program were
Epiphénomènes, where a "Trickster" figure intervenes in the love life of a couple.

At the end of this piece, two ghoulish zombie-like "gravediggers", Ivan and Igor, slink on and remove the bodies from the stage (a neat way of dealing with the lack of a curtain), a device that recurs as a link throughout the program and can be seen at the beginning of

Works by other choreographers also appeared, including Forsythe's Limb's Theorem. This was classic Forsythe, and clearly the most accomplished choreography of the program, very well danced. Ben van Cauwenbergh's classic gala favourite Les Bourgeois to Jacques Brel was also part of the mix. I have never seen anyone dance this piece better than Eric Gauthier, whose company Gauthier Dance is up next at the FASS.
The audience leapt to their feet at the end of the show. Bravo to these young dancers for stretching the Paris Opera Ballet image. If you get a chance to see 3e etage, go! You will be sure to have an enjoyable evening.

If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.


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