Alysa Pires and Siphesihle November Discuss Their Mainstage Debuts
March 8, 2022
Artists of the Ballet in rehearsal for On Solid Ground. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
The 2022 Winter Mixed Programme features new work from Choreographic Associate Alysa Pires and Principal Dancer Siphesihle November, who are both making their mainstage debuts with The National Ballet of Canada. Below, Pires and November share some of the details and inspiration for their new works, Skyward and On Solid Ground.
What themes or ideas are you trying to convey with these works?
Skyward was the first new creation that many of us had worked on in a long time and the energy and excitement of being back in the studio really influenced the movement. There was this great sense of urgency – I was over eight months pregnant at the time, so that sense of urgency had an additional layer for me! I wanted to bottle that feeling. To me this work feels like taking off: a burst of energy and then a moment of weightlessness. The suspension right before you fall… or fly!
It really came down to the simple idea of exploring what it means to find joy in dance and how we translate the joy and internal self-awareness and self-exploration of the body and spirit as a dancer. Sometimes you get glimpses of these elements when you’re watching dance. You get so caught in the spirit of it that you forget about what it looks like or who’s dancing. With On Solid Ground, I was thinking a lot about how to translate that into choreography.
Alysa Pires in rehearsal for Skyward. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
What can you tell us about the music?
I selected this music for a different project before the pandemic and never used it, so I’ve been listening to it for years. Each of the four movements in Skyward features a different composer but the music was all written for the same ensemble, Eighth Blackbird, so there is a common sonic thread. The title of the final piece, Learn to Fly from David Lang’s work These Broken Wings, inspired me with images of birds and flight.
I’ve chosen a compilation of different artists. The first piece that made me realize where I wanted the work to go is a song called Back to You by Benjamin Gordon. It’s a beautiful, melodic song with a simple chord progression and it has a little poem in the middle of it. The voice just hit me. It talks about love and humanity. The other song is Lesa Wandi, which is an African hymn, and the woman singing it, Choolwe Muntanga, has an angelic voice. Hearing it brought me back home and to why I dance and how I can marry music and dance and what that feels like.
Siphesihle November and Artists of the Ballet in rehearsal for On Solid Ground. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
What can we expect in terms of the quality of movement?
I like to describe my aesthetic as “organized falling,” where one movement leads into the next with momentum. I make ample use of the upper body in Skyward to emphasize the feeling of flight while retaining a more classical line in the lower body. The whole piece has a sense of upward motion to it, of hope and moving on.
On Solid Ground is very uncluttered. When we strip away complexities of movement and we strip away the dressing on the steps, we get to the true essence of what the movement is. It allows us to understand the spirit of it rather than the look of it. I wanted to keep things simple in terms of the physicality of the steps but really complex in terms of their nuances.
Artist of the Ballet in rehearsal for Skyward. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
Read Siphesihle November’s Full Biography
Read Alysa Pires' Full Biography
More About the Winter Mixed Programme