The Toronto-based National Ballet of Canada will mark its 65th anniversary with a season that tilts toward tradition; it's full of opulent story ballets and repertoire classics, then contemporary work by Wayne McGregor, John Neumeier and Jerome Robbins.
The centrepiece of 2016-17 is a world premiere: Pinocchio, a full-length adaptation by British choreographer and Royal Ballet guest character artist Will Tuckett.
Tuckett has shown impressive versatility with storytelling in his previous work; he's well known for his 2002 Royal Ballet adaptation of The Wind in the Willows and his more recent ballet Elizabeth.
It will be interesting to see how Tuckett tackles this enduring children's tale – the original story is packed with themes of metamorphosis, individual morality and the nature of good and evil, all of which could make for a powerful distillation into movement and stage imagery. Tuckett will be joined by composer Paul Englishby, designer Colin Richmond, librettist Alasdair Middleton and lighting designer Oliver Fenwick. Pinocchio runs from March 11 to 24, 2017.
The season will open with another old-fashioned story: James Kudelka's 2004 version of Cinderella (Nov. 12-20, 2016) set to Prokofiev's famous 1945 score. It's followed by John Cranko's lush and theatrical Onegin (Nov. 23-27, 2016; touring to the National Arts Centre Jan. 19-21, 2017), based on Pushkin's narrative poem of duelling men and unrequited love, set to orchestral rearrangements of Tchaikovsky music.
James Kudelka's versions of the classics continue with his Nutcracker (Dec. 10-31, 2016) and his Swan Lake from 1999 (June 15-25, 2017). It will be a treat to catch the company's newest principal dancers take on the challenging, virtuosic split role of Odette/Odile.
Wayne McGregor's feral, geometric Chroma impressed Toronto audiences in 2015. The company will be presenting the North American premiere of his 2007 Genus (March 29-April 2, 2017), inspired by Darwin's On the Origin of Species. It will be paired with Jerome Robbins's 1956 comedic ballet The Concert (The Perils of Everybody), set to a range of music by Chopin.
The season will end with the work I'm most excited about: the Canadian premiere of John Neumeier's A Streetcar Named Desire from 1987 (June 3-10, 2017). Neumeier adapts stories without any pedantic fidelity to his sources. His version of Streetcar begins where Tennessee Williams's left off, with Blanche looking back retrospectively from a mental asylum.
In partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario, the season will also include a new commission by choreographic associate Robert Binet. The Dreamers Ever Leave You (Aug. 31-Sept. 10, 2016) is inspired by the paintings of Lawren Harris and will have the audience move through the art gallery as the dancers perform. Also of note is the company's tour to the Lincoln Center Festival in New York, where they'll remount Christopher Wheeldon's The Winter's Tale (July 28-31, 2016).
As 2016/17 season announcements land in my inbox from across the continent and the Atlantic, I've decided to keep tally of the number of female choreographers. The Paris Opera Ballet has one woman for 24 choreographers (Canada's Crystal Pite). The Royal Winnipeg Ballet has two ballets choreographed by women out of a season of six works (Agnes de Mille's Rodeo and Galina Yordanova and Nina Menon's Nutcracker). The National Ballet is zero for 10 this year.