Anima Animus: A Company Premiere by David Dawson
by Caroline Dickie
January 20, 2023

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David Dawson. Photo by Oliver Look.

This March, The National Ballet of Canada will perform the company premiere of Anima Animus, a first acquisition from internationally acclaimed choreographer David Dawson. Created for San Francisco Ballet in 2018, Anima Animus is a ballet of contrasts, most meaningful among them Carl Jung’s concept of anima, the female aspect of the male psyche, and animus, the male aspect of the female psyche.

“Within classical ballet there have been traditions that I wanted to question and try to evolve,” says Dawson. “I wanted to create choreography that was less gender biased, with women dancing men’s choreography and men dancing female choreography. In the first and third movements of the ballet, the choreographic language is shared without the limitations of the traditional rules while also creating a counterpoint to this during the second movement, with the focus on the art of the pas de deux or partnering, and how far in the opposite direction we could go.”

Dawson’s choreography is expansive and fast, and it brilliantly evokes Ezio Bosso’s Violin Concerto No.1 or “Esoconcerto,” music that is itself rich with contrasts.

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Wei Wang, Maria Kochetkova and Henry Sidford in Anima Animus. Photo by Erik Tomasson courtesy of San Francisco Ballet.

“Bosso’s music looks to the past and the future at the same time,” says Dawson. “There are moments when I listen and I feel comforted by what I think I know, then it surprises me and becomes very untraditional. This pushed me to create something beautiful but with a sharp edge. It is a very fast moving and highly dynamic work, very graphic in its own way – but very open.”

Born in London, England, Dawson is one of the world’s leading dance makers, renowned for creating richly atmospheric and physical works in both abstract and narrative forms. His many honours include a Benois de la Danse Award (The Grey Area), a Choo San Goh Award (The Gentle Chapters) and the prestigious Golden Mask Award (Reverence), Russia’s highest theatre prize.

With Anima Animus, Dawson says he wanted to focus on the pure form or aesthetics of dance, but with a thematic element that resonates on a human level, both intellectually and emotionally. He says: “Anima Animus became an opportunity to go back to my own abstract way of working, move away from the narrative work I had been making during the previous years, to look again at pure dance for the sake of pure dance, and to see where I could try to bring the classical form forward. In Anima Animus we are looking at the idea of opposition, between unity and individualism, form and emotion, or architecture and humanity. We look at what lies between these extremes and try to discover how much we can share, where we can be the same, and where we can be different.”

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Christopher Gerty, Heather Ogden and Spencer Hack in Rehearsal for Anima Animus. Photo by Karolina Kuras.

Anima Animus headlines the winter mixed programme featuring a world premiere by Rena Butler and George Balanchine’s Symphony in C. Learn more

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