Stage Door News

Ottawa: The National Ballet of Canada celebrates 50 years with the NAC January 31-February 2

Friday, January 18, 2019

On June 2, 1969, the National Arts Centre opened its door to the public for the first time, and The National Ballet of Canada (NBC) was the very first company to perform on Southam Hall stage with Roland Petit’s avant-garde production ofKraanerg. 50 years later, the NAC is truly honoured to host the NBC with a special program curated by former prima ballerina and Artistic Director Karen Kain. The triple bill showcases the company’s heritage and future with works by some of the architects of 20th century classical ballet, George Balanchine and Frederick Ashton, in addition to the new choreographic talent of the innovative Justin Peck. 

“I am thrilled that The National Ballet of Canada will be returning to the nation’s capital for the National Arts Centre’s 50th anniversary with an exciting mixed program featuring Paz de la Jolla, Apollo, and The Dream. The company’s tour to Ottawa has been a long-standing tradition since the NAC opened in 1969 when the National Ballet danced the inaugural performance on Southam Hall stage. I have fond memories of performing as a dancer myself on the NAC’s stage and it is an honour to help celebrate the NAC’s milestone season,” says Karen Kain.

The program opens with Paz de la Jolla, a joyous work by New York City Ballet dancer and resident choreographer Justin Peck. It is followed by Apollo, one of Balanchine’s most famous collaborations with composer Igor Stravinsky, a masterpiece of neo-classicism that changed the language of ballet forever. The evening concludes with Frederick Ashton’s charming The Dream, a lyrical masterpiece based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The fascinating repertory of musical works will be performed gorgeously by our own NAC Orchestra, under the baton of Guest Conductor Ormsby Wilkins. 


Paz de La Jolla – 20 min.

Apollo – 30 min.

The Dream – 51 min.

One of the top international ballet companies, The National Ballet of Canada was founded in 1951 by Celia Franca. A company of 70 dancers with its own orchestra, the National Ballet has been led by Artistic Director Karen Kain, one of the greatest ballerinas of her generation, since 2005. Renowned for its diverse repertoire, the company performs traditional full-length classics, embraces contemporary work and encourages the creation of new ballets as well as the development of Canadian choreographers. The company’s repertoire includes works by Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, John Cranko, Rudolf Nureyev, John Neumeier, William Forsythe, James Kudelka, Wayne McGregor, Alexei Ratmansky, Crystal Pite, Christopher Wheeldon, Aszure Barton, Guillaume Côté and Robert Binet.

The National Ballet tours in Canada, the US and internationally with appearances in Paris, London, Moscow and St. Petersburg, Hamburg, New York City, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In his 2013 work Paz de la JollaNew York City Ballet dancer and Resident Choreographer Justin Peck has created a heartfelt and sun-washed homage to his southern California upbringing. Set to Martinu's Sintonietta la Jolla, the ballet is a sweet-natured billet-doux to beach life and young love, the choreography both brisk and languid, salty and sensual, rich in emotional undercurrents and evocative of the pleasures and fears of youth and coming of age.

Apollo was first performed by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes on June 12, 1928. It was the first ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to receive international recognition and is the earliest work that illustrates Mr. Balanchine's flair for revitalizing 19th-century classicism with a modern dance vocabulary distinctly his own. Apollo was his second ballet set to the music of Stravinsky and marked the beginning of his lifelong partnership with the composer. 

The ballet depicts Apollo, the young god of music, who is visited and instructed by three Muses, who were also the children of Zeus and therefore his half-sisters: Calliope, Muse of poetry, whose symbol is a tablet; Polyhymnia, Muse of mime, whose symbol is the mask and Terpsichore, Muse of dance and song, whose symbol is a lyre.

Created in 1964, Frederick Ashton's The Dream, based on A Midsummer Night's Dream, is one of the most universally admired and artistically satisfying of all ballet adaptations of the playwright's work. Using Felix Mendelssohn's beloved music, arranged by John Lanchbery, Ashton's version of the play is a miracle of dramatic concision, giving us the familiar characters of Titania and Oberon, the four confused lovers, Puck and the rude mechanicals in a taut but lyrical one-act re-imagining of the story set in Victorian times. Ashton's vibrant, moonlit choreography seamlessly integrated with every magical shift in the narrative's mood.

The National Arts Centre collaborates with artists and arts organizations across Canada to help create a national stage for the performing arts, and acts as a catalyst for performance, creation and learning across the country. Founded on June 2, 1969, the National Arts Centre is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2019 with an array of special programming and activities throughout the year.  A home for Canada’s most creative artists, the NAC strives to be artistically adventurous in each of its programming streams – the NAC Orchestra, English Theatre, French Theatre, Dance and NAC Presents. NAC Indigenous Theatre will begin its first season of programming in the fall of 2019. The NAC’s National Creation Fund invests up to $3 million of privately raised funds every year in 15 to 20 ambitious new works by Canadian artists and arts organizations. The NAC building has recently undergone two extensive renewal projects, generously funded by the Government of Canada, that have re-oriented the NAC to the city; allowed the NAC to become more  welcoming and accessible; and returned its performance halls and production facilities to contemporary standards. The NAC is at the forefront of youth and educational activities, offering artist training, programs for children and youth, and resources for teachers in communities across Canada. The NAC is also a pioneer in new media, showcasing the performing arts across the country through the Kipnes Lantern, the largest transparent LED installation in North America; using technology to teach students and young artists around the globe; creating top-rated podcasts; and providing a wide range of NAC Orchestra concerts on demand. The NAC is the only bilingual, multidisciplinary performing arts centre in Canada, and one of the largest in the world.

  • In person at the Box Office (1 Elgin Street), Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. & Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • At all Ticketmaster outlets
  • By telephone from Ticketmaster, 1-888-991-2787 (ARTS)
  • Online through the Ticketmaster link on the NAC’s website

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Photo: Jillian Vanstone in The Dream. © Aleksandar Antonijevic.