There's lots of stylish work from young choreographers of the moment in the National Ballet of Canada's 2017/2018 season. It will give Toronto audiences a chance to take in a broader sampling of the international spectrum, while showcasing work by artists from home (Crystal Pite, and choreographic associates Guillaume Côté and Robert Binet). With work by New York City Ballet rising star Justin Peck, alongside some of the high-profile contemporary ballets in the company's repertoire, it's a promising season that feels keen on shaking things up.
Next year's homegrown premiere is an exciting collaboration between two artists from Quebec: Côté and renowned theatre auteur Robert Lepage. Frame by Frame, which will run from June 1-10, 2018, at the Four Seasons Centre for the Arts, is a multidisciplinary production about Canadian filmmaker/animator Norman McLaren, co-produced by the National, Ex Machina and the National Film Board.
The Toronto season will open in November with two full-evening remounts, both recent popular hits for the company. The first is Christopher Wheeldon's adaptation of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, which the National premiered in 2015 and toured to New York's Lincoln Center last summer, garnering strong reviews. The second is John Neumeier's staggeringly good Nijinsky, a rich, non-linear imagining of the famed dancer/choreographer's life, last presented in 2014. The company will also tour this production to Paris's Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in October, 2017, and to Ottawa's National Arts Centre in January, 2018.
After the Christmastime Nutcracker – James Kudelka's version now 22-years strong – the spring season will open with an evening of short ballets called Made in Canada, featuring the work of three Canadian choreographers. Nothing on the program is new, but Kudelka's The Four Seasons is a classic that the company hasn't performed since 2013, and the Olivier Award-winning Crystal Pite has tripled her international profile since the world premiere of Emergence, which was choreographed for the National in 2009. Robert Binet will reimagine his magical, site-specific Art Gallery of Ontario ballet, The Dreamers Ever Leave You, for the Four Seasons Centre. And the March-break ballet isn't geared toward the kids next year; from March 8-18, 2018, the company will perform a repertory classic, The Sleeping Beauty.
In addition to the world premiere of Frame by Frame, the summer season will include a mixed program, with Paz de la Jolla by Justin Peck – the sleek, hip ballet featured in the Tribeca Film Festival documentary Ballet 422 – and a remount of Alexander Ekman's satirical Cacti, as well as Dark Angels, a new ballet by Guillaume Côté that will premiere at the National Arts Centre in 2017. Dark Angels will see Côté re-partner with Canadian Le Petit Prince composer Kevin Lau.
The National Ballet has also just announced the appointment of Christopher Stowell to a newly created position: associate artistic director. Stowell was artistic director of the Oregon Ballet from 2003-2012 and a former principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet. As a choreographer, he has made ballets for San Francisco Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Diablo Ballet.