Principal Character Artist Stephanie Hutchison Celebrates 25 Years with The National Ballet of Canada
November 18, 2021
Stephanie Hutchison. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
Stephanie Hutchison joined The National Ballet of Canada as a member of the Corps de Ballet in 1997 and was promoted to Second Soloist in 2000, First Soloist in 2003 and Principal Character Artist in 2015. At every stage she has been a dynamic and versatile performer with a wonderful sense of character, timing and musicality. Today, Stephanie is also the Pointe Shoe Manager, procuring and advising on all pointe shoes for performers, and Assistant Ballet Mistress. Now, as she celebrates 25 years with the National Ballet, we asked Stephanie for her impressions on her career, ballet and the upcoming season.
Take us back to the beginning. When did you start dancing and what made you fall in love with it?
I started ballet classes when I was four years old because my best friend Eva was taking ballet. We are still friends today! I loved moving to music, creating stories through movement and getting lost in the moment. I spent many hours creating and dancing in my family home. When I was eight, my dad took me to a performance of The National Ballet of Canada and I saw Frederick Ashton’s The Two Pigeons with Veronica Tennant and Raymond Smith. I thought Veronica could see or feel that I was watching her even though we were in the balcony! My dad saw my potential and spoke to me about this place called the National Ballet School that I could audition for. He encouraged me that, if I got in, I could train and dance every day or even become a professional like Veronica or Karen Kain, dancers I admired and loved to watch. He was my biggest fan.
Stephanie Hutchison and Chan Hon Goh in Serenade. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
You have been with the company since 1997. What about ballet has held your interest for so long?
One of the most magical aspects of this artform is that it is in the moment. The versions of a dance that are rehearsed or performed are uniquely experienced in that moment in time and space. This keeps dance so fresh. As I’ve accumulated experiences both in dance and in life, my dance interpretations, artistic values, opportunities and abilities have also grown and changed. It’s a constant evolution! I’ve never felt that I’ve mastered dance or thought to myself, “that’s it, that’s the best I’ll ever do it” It’s an ongoing process. And at the end of the day, I still like moving to music, getting lost in a story or moment and sharing/communicating it with the audience.
Do you have a favourite ballet or role?
It’s hard for me to choose a favourite after 25 years. So many roles offer different things – the humour in the Queen of Hearts from Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the fierceness and physical stamina of Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis in Giselle, the poetry of James Kudelka’s The Man in Black or the joy of Autumn in his The Four Seasons, the complexity of Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, oh my, the melancholy and physical strength of the solo woman in Crystal Pite’s Emergence, bringing joy to families in The Nutcracker. I could never choose just one!
I have to say that the best role of my life so far has been motherhood with my daughter Charlotte. I have had the joy of sharing the stage with her numerous times in The Nutcracker when she played a lamb. I believe having her added depth to my character roles and also contributed to my long career as a First Soloist, dancing roles like the Snow Queen into my 40’s.
Stephanie Hutchison with Students of Canada's National Ballet School in The Nutcracker. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
How has your training changed now that you are Principal Character Artist?
Becoming a Principal Character Artist in 2015 was a gift from Karen Kain, as my dancing days became less physical. My love of dance began with movement and storytelling and in this role I’m still given the opportunity to be part of that. The challenge has been to make these stories as profound and meaningful without the assistance of very physical dancing. You have to focus more on what your body language is saying, how your hands, face and presence determine an authentic character. I’m very grateful to still be in rehearsals and performing in this artform with the company and dancers I love.
What are you most looking forward to in the 2021/22 season?
In recent years I’ve started to rehearse the dancers in some of our repertoire, currently Crystal Pite’s Angels’ Atlas. This is proving to be another path of learning and reward in my career. I’m loving how proud I am of our incredible dancers as they return to the stage. And, yes, I can’t wait to be back onstage myself as Baba and Mother in The Nutcracker and, later this season, in the contrasting roles of the angelic Lilac Fairy and the wicked Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty! We also have our new Swan Lake to look forward to – what fun, what a privilege.
Read Stephanie Hutchison’s Biography