National Ballet commissions new all-Canadian work

The National Ballet has called on three Canadian choreographers at different stages in their careers to create new works for an evening of dance titled Innovation, part of its 2013-14 season announced Tuesday.

Cinderella, Onegin and Canadian premiere of Spectre de la Rose in new season

Artists of the National Ballet of Canada in The Four Seasons, the work the company will dance in Saratoga Springs. (Bruce Zinger/National Ballet)

The National Ballet has called on three Canadian choreographers at different stages in their careers to create new works for an evening of dance titled Innovation, part of its 2013-14 season announced Tuesday.

Innovation is one of two works to premiere during the season unveiled by artistic director Karen Kain, which also features favourites such as Cinderella, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. 

Tour to Saratoga Springs

The National Ballet will make its first tour to Saratoga Springs, N.Y. this July.

The troupe will perform on an outdoor stage that has been home in the past to New York City Ballet, performing the romantic classic Giselle and a Canadian program of The Four Seasons & Emergence.

Saratoga Springs has been known for ballet, as well as for horse-racing, and many New Yorkers spend part of the summer there. For years the NYCB danced there in the summer, but when the New York company reconsidered that plan, Saratoga reached out to invite the National Ballet.

The National Ballet will also tour to Ottawa, but other tour plans are currently unconfirmed.

The other is Spectre de la Rose, a revamp of a 100-year-old ballet as choreographed by Marco Goecke of the Stuttgart Ballet, which is to have its Canadian premiere in 2014.

"It’s a very contemporary take of the Spectre de la Rose," Kain says. Kain says it is a small work for just a handful of dancers with a unique style of choreography.

"It’s a complete different vision by the young German choreographer Marco Goecke. The only similarity to the old one is that there are rose petals are involved and that the music is the original music."

After a well-received tour to Washington and Los Angeles and the popularity of its new production of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Christopher Wheeldon, the National Ballet seems to be riding a wave of success.

But  Kain says it’s still a juggling act to put together a program.

"If you have one good year, you’re grateful, but every year offers its own challenges. You never know how many people are going to come and see what you perform. You never know if word of mouth will help fill the seats," she told CBC News.

"You try to offer the most interesting, challenging repertoire and also give people what they’ve liked in the past and things that challenge your artists and you juggle the whole thing and try and come up with something that will hopefully break even at the end of the year."

The full program announced Tuesday:

  • Nov. 9-17, 2013: Swan Lake by James Kudelka.
  • Nov. 22-18, 2013: Innovation, by Robert Binet, Jose Navas and Kudelka.
  • Dec. 14, 2013 to Jan. 4, 2014: The Nutcracker.
  • Feb. 26 – March 2, 2014: Watch Her by Aszure Barton & A Month in the Country by Frederick Ashton.
  • March 8-16, 2014: Swan Lake by Kudelka.
  • March 19-23, 2014: Onegin by John Cranko.
  • May 28-June 1: Spectre de la Rose by Marco Goecke & Opus 19/The Dreamer by Jerome Robbins & the second detail by William Forsythe.
  • June 4-15, 2014: Cinderella by Kudelka.

For the Innovation program, Kain has commissioned dances from choreographer Robert Binet,  a National Ballet School graduate at the beginning of his career, Jose Navas, a Montreal-based choreographer with his own dance troupe Compagnie Flak, and veteran James Kudelka, one of Canada's best-known choreographers.

They all have different styles and different pedigrees – Binet, though very new, is being mentored by the Royal Ballet’s Wayne McGregor, and Navas studied with Merce Cunningham in New York.

Kudelka is a former artistic director of the National Ballet and the man who created the company’s versions of works such as Swan Lake and Cinderella

"We have a huge number of Kudelka works in our repertoire which need to be seen," Kain said.

"We do a Kudelka work almost every year, so for a long time I haven’t commissioned any more because we have so many and I want to create a chance for other choreographers, but James hasn’t created anything new for us now for eight years and I thought it was time."