Contract, The

The Contract

Year: 2002

Heading: a ballet in 2 acts

First Performance:
4 May 2002
Hummingbird Center, Toronto
The National Ballet of Canada

Choreography: James Kudelka
Libretto: Robert Sirman
Score: Michael Torke
Set Design: Michael Levine
Costume Design: Denis Lavoie
Conductor: Ormsby Wilkins

There is also a 19 minute Suite available for concert performance.

Instrumentation: 2(II=picc).2.2(II=bcl).ssax.2.
4.2(II=flghn).3.1timpperc(3): BD/SD/tamb/claves/2bongos/conga/3t-toms/susp.cym/ spl.cym/pipe/tgl/glsp/xyl/vibharppftwordless sopranostrings

Duration: 90', one interval

Libretto: Robert Sirman

Recording: The Contract can be found on the release, the contract

The Contract points to a whole new choreographic language for story ballets, skillfully condensing movement to its bare necessities....Michael Torke's marvelous score...brilliantly dovetails with the mood of the story... —Toronto Globe and Mail

The Contract made history revealing Kudelka as a mature artist fully capable of shaking off the European conventions that have dominated classical dance on this continent and, instead of discarding them, using them to inform a new style of classical ballet that is uniquely of our world... —Toronto Sun

The thunderous ovation that greeted the National Ballet of Canada's premiere of The Contract Saturday night must have sounded sweet indeed to choreographer James Kudelka. Much had been staked on this $1.2 million evening-length dance-drama and, if audience enthusiasm is any guide, it seems to be a popular hit...—National Post

The American composer Michael Torke has outfitted it with a big, lush, romantic score that would have sounded downright old-fashioned in its overt melodiousness and rhythmic frankness a half-century ago but which today sounds like deal dance music. And the music and dance did work well together...—Toronto Star

Program Note:

Preparations are underway for a children's performance in a community hall. Four age groups are present: children, young adults of courting age, parents, and elders. The children's performance, recognizable as "The Pied Piper of Hamelin", takes place on a small stage. At its conclusion, the adults clear away a space in the hall to hold a celebratory party, where the young people dance.

The dancing is interrupted by the entrance of Will, a young man returning to the community after some absence. Will is reunited with his fiancee, Dot. The young people return to their dancing, but when they are joined by Will, they are infected one by one with a movement disorder Will has carried from the outside. Soon all the young people are infected. As the adults look on with growing anxiety, Dot's Mother enters the dance to put an end to the aberration, and is herself stricken. The dancing stops.

The adults argue amongst themselves, but no one has a solution. Eva, a stranger to the community, enters the hall and claims healing powers. The elders are skeptical, but are outnumbered by the parents, led by Dot's despairing Father. A contract is made with Eva to rid them of the disease.

Eva overcomes the affliction through the laying-on of hands. Exhausted, Eva collapses as the others celebrate. The community returns to normal, and the men and women retreat to separate curtained-off areas on either side of the hall to sleep.

Eva emerges from the shadows and dances through her exhaustion in the space between the two sleeping areas. She is joined by Will, and her strength returns as they yield to physical passion.

An elder steps forward, following the gaze of a child. The child has witnessed the seduction, and the elder is enraged. He separates the two lovers, striking Will to the ground and calling the community to nullify Eva's contract. Only Dot's mother defends Eva.

Eva fights back, but the contract is broken. The children, silent observers, weigh the arguments being acted out and cast Eva in the role of the wronged Pied Piper.

As the community struggles to restore order, Eva leads the children away.

—Robert Sirman