In honour of Canada’s sesquicentennial, three of the nation’s most innovative choreographers and composers respectively have paired up to develop a tri-part series of remarkable one-act contemporary ballets. Commissioned by Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, Encount3rs premieres on April 20 under the baton of music director Alexander Shelley, as a ballet-orchestral performance that’s the first of its kind.
Here is what ballet fans can expect in terms of power-pairings: first up, Guillaume Côté, the National Ballet of Canada’s choreographic associate and principal dancer, in partnership with emerging composer Kevin Lau (the two previously worked together on last year’s Le Petit Prince). “There is an element of respect in collaboration, and a lack of control,” Côté says of the format. Dark Angels, their one-act ballet, is moody and dramatic, featuring eight principal dancers from the National Ballet of Canada. “We focused on three things: virtuosity, craft, and skill,” says Côté. “I had to maximize each presence to match the power and energy of the music.” A tease: supreme Greta Hodgkinson and dance partner Harrison James will perform what Côté terms an “impossible” pas de deux.
Alberta Ballet’s artistic director and choreographer Jean Grand-Maître worked with composer Andrew Staniland to create their new ballet—the dance called Caelestis and the music Phi. Projection designers Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis also joined the project, which is inspired by the connection between art and science. “The project is based on the growing understanding of ‘Phi’ as an omnipresent mathematical truth and the DNA of the universe. It is an abstract emotional work based on beauty, drama, suffering, and torment,” says Grand-Maître. Working with 10 principal dancers from Alberta Ballet, the choreographer was without music for most of the process, as both elements of the dance were conceived separately.
Emily Molnar, Ballet B.C.’s artistic director and choreographer who joined forces with Saskatchewan mad scientist composer Nicole Lizée after an inspiring conversation. “We asked ourselves, ‘What is fascinating us right now?’” says Molnar. The result is Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming, loosely based on The Sleeping Beauty. In the performance, the classic tale is transported surrealistically into the 21st century, and explores where the mind travels when one sleeps. “We both have the same approach to practice by deconstructing and reconstructing,” observes Molnar. Lizée’s musical score came first. Then, Molnar worked with eight principal dancers from Ballet B.C., helping them analyze their thoughts about the theme, before building the choreography with their input.
Côté sums up Encount3rs quite simply: “By bringing three of Canada’s most important dance companies to collaborate on new music commissioned for the National Arts Centre Orchestra, it sparks a beautiful creative process that helps to unites artists from coast to coast.” An exciting way to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday through dance.
Encount3rs runs from April 20 to April 22, 2017 at the National Arts Centre, 1 Elgin Street, Ottawa, ON.
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