“Shall We Dance?” Yup; & with Brott’s NAO Reply

Review by Judith CaldwellreviewerJudith

Where, in Ontario, can you get Break Dancing and Classical Ballet on the same bill?  At the Brott Music Festival of course.  They try to keep us entertained with unusual opening acts and last evening the opening act was a Break Dancing duo Conkrete Stylez Crew made up of B-boy Stuntz and B-boy Tricky Troublez (they do like z’s) dancing to the music of Alexander Pozdnyakov, a Russian composer currently living in Montreal.  The music was raw, passionate and rhythmic and perfect for the break dancing.

Stanczyk & Pereira, post-concert

Stanczyk & Pereira, post-concert

Conkrete Stylez Crew made the impossible look easy and exhibited extreme physical control – and thoroughly entertained us.  I had previously seen bits and pieces of break dancing in the streets but had never before watched it as an art form.  It needs a narrative but it belongs and was worth watching, I hope I see more of it.

Then we got back to the classical music with the Nutcracker pas de deux.  This was originally supposed to be danced by Piotr Stanczyk  and Sonia Rodriguez but Ms Rodriguez suffered an injury and was replaced at the last moment by Tina Pereira. Rather than dance the pas de deux they offered excepts from Swan Lake later in the program.  I had never before realised how saccharine the music for the pas de deux is without the joy of watching dancers, it was beautifully played and Maestro Fabio Mastrangelo (a National Academy Orchestra apprentice conductor from the very first year) had great fun clowning with the orchestra but the sugar Tchaikovsky wrote was very evident.

We moved onto the Waltz and Polonaise from Eugene Onegin.  This is one of my favourite operas and the Waltz and Polonaise signal a total change in the dynamics of the opera and the National Academy Orchestra played them with the delicacy and precise rhythm they needed despite the clowning from Maestro Mastrangelo which I found distracting.

The dancers had actually come on stage early – between the waltz and the polonaise – and had very gracefully exited again.  Now they came on for real and while the orchestra provided the musically dramatic background Piotr Stanczyk and Tina Pereira danced two pieces from Swan Lake.  The stage was small and restricting but Piotr later said that increased their focus.  They gave a very good performance and were obviously interested in doing their best in limiting circumstances and at intermission they both came out for photo ops and chats and seemed to really enjoy both what they do and being in Hamilton.  Nothing stuffy about this pair.

After intermission we were offered Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #5, a work in four movements which he called ‘distressing’.  It opens with the doom and gloom of E Minor and progresses through multiple emotional climaxes to end in the slightly more hopeful key of E Major.  The first movement was conducted by Brendan Hagan, he is in his second year with the National Academy Orchestra and is  growing in confidence.  He got a very crisp opening statement from this orchestra.

Maestro Mastrangelo took over the next three movements and did not indulge in clowning – it was straight Tchaikovsky – and it was magnificent.  The orchestra is really good-  there are some musicians, like Afendi Yusuf, clarinet (among others), we will likely hear a whole lot more of in the years to come – and they are mentored by some locals whom we know are wonderful, add in some thundering Tchaikovsky  angst and you have a truly enjoyable evening.  We are so lucky in Hamilton, I am glad I live here.

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