Robert Binet on Choreography, CreativAction and His New Role with The National Ballet of Canada
September 9, 2021
Robert Binet. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
Robert Binet, the innovative creator of such works as Orpheus Alive and The Dreamers Ever Leave You, has accepted a permanent position with The National Ballet of Canada’s Artistic Team: Curator and Producer, CreativAction and Special Initiatives. The role will extend his visionary support for Canadian choreographic talent through CreativAction, an umbrella programme that shares the company’s resources with independent dance artists and Toronto’s dance community. Here, he discusses his new position, his ongoing work as Choreographic Associate and his hopes for the upcoming season.
You have just been named Curator and Producer, CreativAction and Special Initiatives. Congratulations! How did the position come about and what will it entail?
Many of the projects and initiatives I was leading before the pandemic took us out of the theatre and into new spaces and collaborations. This work became essential over the last 18 months and I have been grateful to lead so many exciting projects, both virtual and in-person. As we looked towards returning to the theatre, we all felt the importance of continuing this work so the new role evolved out of conversations with Executive Director Barry Hughson, Artistic Director Emerita Karen Kain and Associate Artistic Director Christopher Stowell about how I could continue to stretch and amplify this part of what we do as an organization. In my new role, I will be able to dive deeper into this work and integrate it more closely with the company's activities and long-term planning.
Harrison James and Robert Binet in rehearsal for Orpheus Alive. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
Is CreativAction something you had always envisioned yourself starting or did it come about more organically, in response to what you were seeing as a working choreographer yourself?
I had the opportunity to work closely with Wayne McGregor in my time as Choreographic Apprentice with The Royal Ballet and he gave me so many incredible opportunities to create, learn and build relationships with artists who inspire me. I promised myself that once I got on my feet as a choreographer, I would find a way to create similar opportunities for other artists, so it was always something I was determined to do. The actual structure of CreativAction developed organically. After about five years as a Choreographic Associate, I had a clear sense of how the organization worked, what opportunities we could offer and what resources we could share, so I pitched the programme to Karen and Barry, and they gave me the green light to build it.
You are also continuing in your role as Choreographic Associate. How does your leadership of CreativAction affect your own creativity?
Being in dialogue with so many different artists through CreativAction is consistently inspiring to me as a choreographer. Learning about what other artists want to create, how they want to create it and what they need to realize their vision opens my mind up to new ways of creating dance. I have always wanted to be part of a community of choreographers who fascinate and inspire me, and through CreativAction that is becoming a reality.
Genevieve Penn Nabity and Christopher Gerty in The Dreamers Ever Leave You. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
This summer’s Outdoor Residency at Harbourfront Centre marked a first return to live performance for several local dance artists and The National Ballet of Canada. What was that experience like?
As a choreographer, bringing The Dreamers Ever Leave You back to life with a fabulous cast was a really joyful experience. It’s a work where every dancer must bring their creativity and personality to the stage and so to see everyone come back to dancing in such a personal way was very moving. It was equally exciting working with our four guest companies who were in the Outdoor Studio building their new creations. Seeing the range of ideas explored and movement practices developed was thrilling. Dance in Toronto has an incredibly exciting future.
What are you most looking forward to in the 2021/22 season?
I am looking forward to getting all our CreativAction programmes up and running again, and to finally getting Karen’s Swan Lake on stage. I have been part of the creative team for Swan Lake from the beginning and despite all the delays the production continues to get more and more exciting, and I can’t wait to finally get it in front of an audience. Karen’s vision for this ballet is bold and inspiring.