NAC’s new dance season will explore the world

Ottawa Citizen – Lynn Saxberg

Get ready for a “horizontal journey” through the world of dance in the National Arts Centre’s 2019-20 season.

“We’re taking people on quite the horizontal journey, as I like to say,” said series producer Cathy Levy. “We open with Dancers of Damelahamid, this beautiful, visually stunning multi-disciplinary work from the west coast of Canada, and close it with Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, an eclectic, energetic, high-energy, diverse program from Cuba.

“In between, we travel through a number of different countries, including New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, the Netherlands, United States and Ireland.”

For her, the key is to strike a balance between Canadian companies and international ones, while also being mindful of the split between classical and contemporary forms. She’s also committed to including Indigenous companies.

“I want to bring in companies that we’ve seen before that have new work, but also showcase new voices and reflect the choreographic scene that’s developing around the world,” Levy said.

A few highlights of the upcoming season include the NAC debut of the New Zealand Dance Company, an Irish-infused version of Swan Lake by Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Dublin-based company Teaċ Daṁsa, and the world premiere of Mînowin by British Columbia’s Dancers of Damelahamid, an Indigenous dance company from the northwest coast led by Margaret Grenier.

Another first for Ottawa is The Wizard of Oz, the new, technologically enhanced full-length ballet by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. It marks the Winnipeg company’s second appearance in the season, just a month or so after presenting their reimagined version of the holiday favourite, The Nutcracker.

Ballet fans can also look forward to the National Ballet of Canada’s production of the full-length classic, Romeo and Juliet, and the Boston Ballet’s mixed program, which includes a new work by the company’s principal dancer Paulo Arrais.

While ballet is always a staple of the season, a growing number of people are willing to check out more adventurous, contemporary fare. In that category you’ll find Australia’s Bangarra Dance Theatre, one of the leading Aboriginal dance companies, as well as Che Malambo, the powerful all-male company from Argentina that thrills audiences with its take on South American dance traditions.

Levy said the increasing popularity of pick-your-own subscriber packages shows that people are willing to take a chance on new things.

“Over the last decade, we’ve seen the numbers grow in the choose-your-own option, which tells us that people are not just sticking with what they already know,” Levy said. “They might choose Romeo and Juliet, but they might augment that with the contemporary Cubans. That’s the work I’ve been doing over the last 15 years with the audience, encouraging them to take a chance. You might not love everything but you don’t love every movie you go to either and you still go back to the movies. There’s something wonderful about that.”

Other returning favourites include Nederlands Dance Theatre, which hasn’t been to Ottawa since the 1980s, and New York’s visionary tap dancer, Michelle Dorrance, whose company pays tribute to the history of tap dance while also pushing it into new conceptual territory.

In all, the season features 16 companies from eight countries, and 27 different choreographic voices, adding up to a comprehensive slice of global dance practice that shows the vibrancy of the discipline.

“I think that choreographers are really pushing the envelope in so many ways,” Levy said. “They continue to be very brave and adventurous and experimental. Even though some work involves language or digital technology or projections, the essence of it is the body moving in space, and that’s universal. I find that choreography crosses the lines between other disciplines in a very fluid manner, and I like to capture that in my season because I think it shows the spectrum of what is possible.”

Dancers of Damelahamid, Sept. 26-28

The New Zealand Dance Company, Oct. 8-9

Lucy Guerin Inc., Oct. 24-26

Teac Damsa, Michael Keegan-Dolan, Oct. 30

Boston Ballet, Nov. 7-9

Bangarra Dance Theatre, Nov. 15-16

Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Dec. 4-8

Fou glorieux | Louise Lecavalier, Jan. 15-16

Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Jan. 23-25

Che Malambo, Feb. 8

Animals of Distinction | Dana Gingras, Feb. 19-20

Dorrance Dance, Feb. 29

Nederlands Dans Theater, March 17-18

The National Ballet of Canada, April 2-4

A.I.M., April 7-8

Compagnie Flak | José Navas, April 30 – May 2

Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, May 9

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