NAC Dance 2018-19: New works by Akram Khan, Peggy Baker, Crystal Pite and a classic Giselle with Les Grands Ballets

Akram Khan in Xenos. Photo: Jean-Louis Fernandez

New works by Akram Khan and Crystal Pite. A Face 2 Face festival featuring Indigenous performance from Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A return to the classics by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and an appearance by Evelyn Hart highlight the 2018-19 season of dance at the National Arts Centre.

The head of NAC Dance, Cathy Levy, always strives to bring a balanced look at the amazing spectrum of dance performance in Canada and around the world to Ottawa and, she believes, that’s she’s done just that in the 19 shows that will be performed in the 2018-19 season.

NAC Dance’s Cathy Levy. Photo: Nick Lafontaine

“I strive for that. I don’t want to just present one kind of work all year. We want to bring people what they are comfortable with and also push them to see things they haven’t seen before.

“That’s very important. I have to say that, despite the fact, that all artists could use more resources, the quantity and quality of artists working in Canada and elsewhere in North America is (amazing). My only disappointment is that I’m not doing a 50 event season.”

Akram Khan’s show Xenos (Oct. 11-13), which means stranger in Greek, will be the legendary British dancer-choreograoher’s last solo work. For Ottawa audiences, there is a special connection. The young eclectic theatre and film artist and writer Jordan Tannahill has prepared a text for the work.

A scene from Crystal Pite’s Revisor a Kidd Pivot show. Photo: Michael Slobodian

Crystal Pite is another one of those special artists. Her work Betroffenheit made a stunning appearance at the NAC a few years back. And she’s returning with a new piece called Reviser (Feb. 28-March 2, 2019) which is inspired by Nikolai Gogol’s The Inspector General. This work is a second collaboration between Pite’s Kidd Pivot company with the theatre artist Jonathon Young.

Both of these pieces are NAC co-productions. This year NAC Dance is presenting six of those.

“We invest in Canada and in some international work and it takes time to get these works to the stage. Six in one season is the most to come to fruition in one year. Some of the work I haven’t seen but we trust the artist, we know the themes.”

Peggy Baker Dance Projects. Photo: Aleksandar Antonijevic

Levy believes the idea of the NAC being involved in co-productions “is really important for our audience. For example, they know (the Canadian dancer-choreographer) Peggy Baker. We embarking on a process with her.” This work by the Peggy Baker Dance Projects is called, who we are in the dark. It features an original score composed and performed by Jeremy Gara and Sarah Neufeld of Arcade Fire. It explores shifting identities, betrayals, secrets and intimacies played out in the dark (April 12-13, 2019).

The NAC has also co-produced Solo 70 featuring another Canadian dance legend the 70 year old Paul-André Fortier (Oct. 25-27, 2018) in his final work wth his company Fortier Danse-Création.

The annual Face 2 Face festival features three longer works this season including a co-production with Lara Kramer, an Indigenous artist working in Montreal. Her work Wendigo will be co-presented by the Ottawa Dance Directive on Feb. 21-22, 2019 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 23, 2019 at 5:30 p.m.

Alberta Ballet. Photo: Charles Hope

The work Copper Promises: Hinemihi Haka by the Maori choreographer Victoria Hunt will also be part of Face2Face as a co-presentation with La Nouvelle Scène Gilles Desjardins on Feb. 22 and 23. The third piece in Face2Face is from Australia’s Ilbijerri Theatre Company. Blood on the Dance Floor (Feb. 22-23, 2019) is a co-presentation with La Nouvelle Scène Gilles Desjardins. Choreographer Jacob Boehme, of the Narangga and Kaurna nations of South Australia,  explores legacy and memory.

The surprise these new works create is balanced, she says, by finished works such as Bach and Gira by Groupo Corpo (Feb. 9, 2019).

Levy is also bringing in works from established companies that have a long relationship with the NAC.

An example of that is Alberta Ballet‘s Joni Mitchell’s The Fiddle and the Drum (May 15-16, 2019).

“We have never shown it before. When Jean Grand-Maître (Alberta Ballet’s artistic director) called and said they were  remounting it on its 10th anniversary and asked ‘Will you please help me get it to Ottawa?’ I said let’s do it. Let’s get Joni here if she can make it.” Mitchell is turning 75 in November and has been battling ill health. Alberta Ballet is also bringing its Nutcracker Nov. 28 to Dec. 2.

Ballet BC, too, returns next March with three pieces, one of which is an as yet unnamed work by artistic director Emily Molnar, Levy says.

Another company coming with an unnamed work is the Alonzo King LINES Ballet from San Francisco. Levy trusts their work, so she says she’s willing to get them some rope. One thing going for this new piece is that it is a collaboration with world music tabla icon Zakir Hussain.

Dancer Yui Sugawara in Les Grands Ballets’ Giselle Photo: Sasha Onyshchenko

The ballet series will feature a performance of Giselle (April 4-6, 2019), one of the classic ‘white’ ballets of the 19th century by Les Grand Ballet Canadiens. The company’s new artistic director Ivan Cavallari has signalled a desire to do more classical ballet, Levy says.

“I think it’s great. Our audience has a long relationship with Les Grand Ballets but when they started doing a lot of contemporary work they weren’t here as much as they used to be.

The National Ballet of Canada (Jan. 31-Feb. 2, 2019) will be doing Apollo, The Dream, Paz de la Jolla; pieces by George Balanchine, Frederick Ashton and Justin Peck.

The Royal Winnipeg Ballet will be back with Vespers by James Kudelka (Nov. 1-3, 2018). It features the choral music of Monteverdi’s Baroque masterpiece Vespers, 1610. And a performance by 61 year old Evelyn Hart as an Everywoman.

“She (Hart) is not pretending to be a ballet dancer,” Levy says of ths role. “She is a beautiful theatrical dancer.”  

Quick mentions:

Company Wang Ramirez debuts at the NAC with Borderline Nov. 7-8;

Malpaso Dance Company from Havana, Cuba, presents Ocaso, Tabula Rasa, Indominable Waltz, Face The Torrent Jan. 18-19, 2019; 

Farruquito presents gypsy flamenco March 4, 2019; 

• Montreal’s Le Patin Libre skates back into town with Threshold, May 10-11.

For more information:

Share Post
Written by

Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.