The Interactive Iterations of Ever New by Robert Binet
August 14, 2023

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Connor Hamilton at YOU dance. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

In 2022, Robert Binet created Ever New, a short piece for the dancers of the RBC Apprentice Programme to perform for students as part of YOU dance. The title is the same as one of the pieces of music by Beverly Glenn-Copeland that Robert used and it’s also fitting for the concept and fulfillment of the piece. Each performance is unique, owing to the incorporation of student suggestions and improvisation by the dancers.  

Ever New will be presented at Sharing the Stage, Harbourfront Centre, August 17 – 19, giving audiences an opportunity to see this innovative piece.

When did you create Ever New? 

Every year for YOU dance performances, we select excerpts from The National Ballet of Canada’s repertoire as well as short new works to share a variety of styles for the hour-long show. For the 2022/23 season, Hope Muir, Joan and Jerry Lozinski Artistic Director, asked me to create a new piece. I wanted to create a work that was interactive and would allow students to see their ideas play out on stage.  

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Connor Hamilton with RBC Appentices at YOU dance. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

What were the variables within the show? 

Ever New has three sections. Before the first section, we played some of the music while showing the students five different colours for the backdrop and asked them to vote on which colour they thought matched the music best. Afterwards, we talked about how the colour choice affected the way the dancing made them feel.  

For the second section, I started with six dancers on stage and the audience had three options: for the dancers to start facing each other, facing away from each other or all facing the same way. Plus, for a duet in that section, the students chose which two dancers would perform together (a male/female, male/male or female/female pairing).  

In the last part, we asked, “What kind of world do you want to live in?” The students gave one-word answers, most often ideas like beautiful, peaceful, colourful and inclusive. Sometimes we had surprises like “candyland” or “sci-fi”. Once we chose the words, the next step was for the students to come up with a physical representation of each word, such as holding their hands together to form a heart, and then the dancers inserted that gesture into the choreography. We asked the students to look for their gestures and do them along with the dancers. It was so moving to see all these young people paying close attention to see where their ideas appeared and dancing in the seats along with our apprentices.  

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Yi-Min Tsung, Kiera Sanford and Oliver Yonick at YOU dance. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

This sounds like a fantastic way to engage the audience! 

The students were really into it. Overall, I wanted them to see the creative freedom and decision making that goes into creating a ballet, and art in general. There are choices to be made to help tell the story, set the mood or convey a specific emotion. I want the students to understand that if they want to communicate happiness, for example, they can choose the music, lighting, arrangement of people and shapes to express that feeling. I want the students to see that ballet is flexible and adaptable and that it is made relevant through their personal artistic expression. 

In addition to showing the students the process of creating a ballet, you’re inviting them to make the choices. 

Exactly – which makes Ever New truly participatory and interactive. It’s important to highlight different styles from the past century, including a pas de deux from Swan Lake or Giselle within the YOU dance performance, but Ever New helps the students watch through a new lens: what choices were made to produce the sensations they are experiencing while they watch the performance? Overall, the students gain the experience of being part of a live performance, watching dance and understanding how the choices come together. Most of all, I want the students to have a fun, creative experience of ballet and to carry that feeling and memory with them once they leave the theatre. 

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Lisa Robinson and Robert Binet with students at YOU dance. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

Sharing the Stage takes place August 17 – 19 at Harbourfront Centre.
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