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Arielle Miralles and Artists of the National Ballet of Canada in The Collective Agreement.Karolina Kuras/The National Ballet of Canada

  • Title: The Collective Agreement, Crepuscular, Concerto
  • Company: National Ballet of Canada
  • Venue: Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen Street West, Toronto ON
  • City: Toronto
  • Year: Nov. 9 – 13, 2022

The National Ballet of Canada kicks off its 2022/23 season with a celebration of diverse, contemporary works and a loving tribute to the past with The Collective Agreement, Crepuscular, and Concerto on their main stage at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre.

The evening begins with Vanesa G.R. Montoya’s first work for the National Ballet and mainstage premiere: Crepuscular. The small ensemble of eight begins together, gradually separating with the setting sun, laying bare individual hopes and fears while couples enjoy a little romance. Montoya’s blend of both classical and contemporary styles is captivating with unambiguous storytelling. Combined with the dusky lighting design of Jeff Logue and the romance of Frédéric Chopin, what would be banal by the light of day is imbued with a dreamy mysticism in the twilight.

The small ensemble has formidable focus: Even a cacophony of 1,000+ cellphones announcing an amber alert (the child was found safe, blessedly) echoing through the hall couldn’t rattle them.

Originally created for the San Francisco Ballet in 2018, Alonzo King of Alonzo King LINES Ballet has The Collective Agreement making its Canadian debut in this program. Scored by jazz pianist Jason Moran (no relation to me) the music itself feels like a conversation between individuality and collectivity. The choreography is complex, the ensemble of 20 deftly navigates solos, duets and full ensemble work, their individual parts more independent until they reach a collective agreement. What makes the whole process of finding this collective agreement so visually engaging is that seeking homogeneity of movement is never an end goal. Agreement, at times, requires moving in unison, but more often it involves many dancers using their differences to best support each other.

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Brenna Flaherty and Kota Sato in Crepuscular.Karolina Kuras/The National Ballet of Canada

The choreography overall is bombastic and joyful, and though all the dancers are a delight to watch, principal dancer Siphesihle November’s athleticism is dazzling. His incandescent charisma could illuminate the entire stage should the lights ever fail.

The evening concludes with Kenneth MacMillan’s beloved Concerto, initially premiering in 1966, it was last performed more than 30 years ago at the National Ballet. This past October marked the thirtieth anniversary of MacMillan’s passing; Concerto feels like the perfect choice for a full company celebration of his life and contributions to dance. Though definitely a product of its time, Concerto is still lovely to see. The music of Dmitri Shostakovich has an almost pastoral sensibility about it, transporting the brightly costumed dancers to what I imagine as an enchanted field in some fantastical land. What I appreciate most about MacMillan’s work is that it’s an easy entry point to contemporary ballet and ballet more generally. His choreography is aesthetically pleasing without any specialized knowledge, however, it’s substantive for those who are looking for a deeper connection and appreciation.

This season opener is exactly the kind of programming I have been wanting to see at the National Ballet. United under the banner of contemporary ballet, stylistically these three works couldn’t be more different from one another, but together they beautifully showcase the versatility of the company and corps. The choreographers are from Spain (Montoya), the United States (King) and Scotland (MacMillan). They are multigenerational, multiethnic, and they all offer valuable perspectives. Each work is an invitation to try something new, see something familiar, revel in complex and cutting edge choreography, or just enjoy the beauty of big budget productions featuring professional dancers at the top of their game.

After the past few uncertain years, the National Ballet Company’s return to a full season on the main stage does not disappoint. The Collective Agreement, Crepuscular, and Concerto is an absolute joy from beginning to end. I left the theatre feeling optimistic for our national ballet company and its roll in keeping the art form thriving and vital.

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Jurgita Dronina and Harrison James.Karolina Kuras/The National Ballet of Canada

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