“Is this a ballet about a seagull who is looking for his mate but is heartbroken when she finds another? Is that what all the flap is about?” That was the quick capsule review I heard as I made my way out to the foyer during the intermission of The National Ballet of Canada’s latest production, 
The Seagull. It’s a little more complicated than that. The ballet, which is based on Anton Chekhov’s play
The Seagull, revolves around a cast of dancers and choreographers who are creatively and personally entangled in one another’s lives. The plot line reads like a
reality-television script: Kostya (Guillaume Côté) is smitten with Nina (
Sonia Rodriguez), but Nina and Arkadina (
Greta Hodgkinson)—who is Kostya’s mother—love Trigorin (Aleksandar Antonijevic). The supporting cast is also embroiled in their own triangle of misplaced and unrequited entanglements. The story of their evolving and devolving
romance is told through a series of duets. The duality and duelling are mirrored in the dance styles, with nods to avant-garde Ballets Russes and the more traditional Imperial Theatre ballet. Choreographer John Neumeier even blends modern dance and follies cabaret into the mix. “Contrasting these four sometimes diametrically opposed types of movement, my
Seagull also becomes a lesson in dance history,” he wrote in the program notes. It’s perhaps a life lesson as well because we’re reminded that our struggles for love and success come with their own share of joys and disappointments. Or, as Neumeier put it: “In a ballet, we can only understand what we see. We can only be moved by what we recognize in our own hearts as true.”
The Seagull continues until March 25
at the Four Seasons Centre in Toronto national.ballet.ca.