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Toronto's other ballet company: Ballet Jorgen Canada


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In addition to the National Ballet of Canada, Toronto has a small touring company, Ballet Jorgen, which has been around for 25 years now. They take live ballet to the smaller stages and towns that can't host Canada's bigger companies. I recently attended their 25th anniversary launch and posted about it to my blog. http://toursenlair.blogspot.ca/2012/09/ballet-jorgen-canada-swan-lake_24.html

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Toursenlair, could you tell me something about the other ballet companies in Canada, particularly those serving the west of the country as my sister lives in Vancouver? I believe that Alberta Ballet is based in Calgary and Ballet BC is based in Vancouver but I don't know anything about them.

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Toursenlair, could you tell me something about the other ballet companies in Canada, particularly those serving the west of the country as my sister lives in Vancouver? I believe that Alberta Ballet is based in Calgary and Ballet BC is based in Vancouver but I don't know anything about them.

 

Hi Aileen, glad to.

 

The National Ballet of Canada is the biggest company, with over 70 dancers in Toronto. Their rep is what you would expect of a big national ballet company: the major full-length classics of the 19th and 20th c., short ballets by Balanchine, Ashton, Kudelka (who was AD for a while in the late 90s), Robbins, Wheeldon, McGregor etc. the usual suspects. It is coming to England in April, bringing Ratmansky's new Romeo to Sadler's Wells. It co-produced Wheeldon's Alice with the Royal B. It tours to Ottawa every year and this year is touring Alice to LA and Washington. This year's touring is quite unusual as it hasn't been able to afford to tour abroad for many years now.

 

Canada's oldest ballet company is the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. They tour a lot. Their rep is made up of classical productions (like Sleeping Beauty.) and newer productions, both full length and mixed bills. When I was growing up in Winnipeg it was all mixed bills but they are leaning heavily to the full-length story ballets now. Recent ones are Dracula and Moulin Rouge, which has been very popular with audiences (maybe not standard ballet audiences) but I thought it was pretty dreadful (sorry, RWB!). This fall they are performing Twyla Tharp's new story ballet The Princess and the Goblin, whcih RWB co-produced with Atlanta Ballet. I think there are about 25 dancers in the RWB.

 

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in Montreal is what you might call a "contemporary ballet" company. They do have a Nutcracker, but I don't think they have any of the other big classics. They do a lot of Kylian, Veldman, people like that. Last year they commissioned Canadian choreographer Peter Quanz, who works in a neoclassical style (and also does a lot of work for the RWB, where he has a small group of dancers called Q Dance who put on evenings of his pieces in Winnipeg and smaller Manitoba centres) to do a full-length story ballet. He used the story of Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin, and it was hugely popular with audiences and will doubtless be brought back.

 

Vancouver, surprisingly for a large city, is a bit of a wasteland as far as ballet goes. Their resident company, Ballet BC, is really more of a contemporary company. Notoriously they launched a "no more tutus" publicity campaign a couple of years ago when they hung tutus on the lampposts in Vancouver. The most balletic they get is Forsythe and Kylian. They are doing a Giselle this year but it sounds like it's a modern reworking of it, in the vein of Mats Ek. The National Ballet of Canada tours to Vancouver on average about every two years and RWB and Alberta Ballet do visit. This past June the Mikhailovsky came with Swan Lake. The other option for Vancouverites is to go to Seattle (a 21/2 hr drive, which seems like a lot less for us than for you in the UK!) to see Pacific Northwest Ballet.

 

Alberta Ballet is located in Calgary and has regular seasons there and in Edmonton and also tours. It's also a group of about 20. They do some classics (Swan Lake for instance) but in the past few years under their AD Jean Grand-Maitre they have launched into a series of full-evening ballets set to popular songs. First it was Joni Mitchell, then it was Elton John, last year it was Sarah McLaughlin and this year it's k d lang (who is also from Alberta). These seem to be very successful with the audience. I saw the Elton John ballet (which was also a bio of Elton) and though I'm not a big fan of Elton John I did enjoy it. I noticed that the audience (here in Toronto where they were on tour) was not at all the same crowd as comes to the National Ballet, so Grand-Maitre does seem to be expanding the audience. Whether that audience will cross over into more traditional classical ballet is another question.

 

There are also smaller companies in Victoria, BC, Kelowna (central BC), and Fredericton New Brunswick in Eastern Canada (Atlantic Ballet Theatre).

Edited by alison
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well, no, not really. Vancouverites might get two real ballets a year, and one of those will be Nutcracker. I'm sure they're grateful for the Bolshoi and Royal live broadcasts! Last year they got the Cubans doing Don Q, then Mikhailovsky doing Swan Lake, and this year they're getting China doing.. Swan Lake and Jorgen doing... Swan Lake.

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I think The Mikhailovsky was a bit of a fluke, actually. They were supposed to be performing in New York, but ABT exercised the non-compete clause they have in their contracts with Vasiliev and Osipova. So I guess the Mikhailovsky or their N American impresarios went casting around for another North American city and landed on Vancouver. The performances were very poorly attended, I heard.

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I agree about the Mikhailovsky, which has no name recognition in Canada. Also early June is a hard time to sell shows because people are involved in end-of-school-year activities with their kids. RWB will do fine with Nutcracker; Nutcracker is always an easy sell. Since both it and the Chinese Swan Lake are part of Ballet BC's subscription series, that will guarantee a certain number of seats. That's pretty much how touring companies operate here; they piggyback on the resident company's season. It's a win-win because it allows the more contemporary companies like Ballet BC and Les Grands to offer their subscription audience someting classical that they themselves would not do. After Vancouver, the Chinese are moving on to Montreal as part of Les Grands Ballets' season with Raise the Red Lantern. There is also a very large Chinese population in Vancouver so they may well come out for the National Ballet of China. Ballet Jorgen always dances in small theatres in cities that otherwise don't get ballet so I think they do pretty well.

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