World Premiere by Rena Butler
by Caroline Dickie
February 7, 2023

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Rena Butler. Photo by Lindsay Linton.

The March programme sees The National Ballet of Canada performing work by Rena Butler for the first time, reflecting Joan and Jerry Lozinski Artistic Director Hope Muir’s ambition to expand the repertoire with distinct creative voices. Butler is an exciting choreographer to watch – a Princess Grace Award-winning artist who inspired the recent Dance Magazine cover story, “The Epitome of Contemporary Cool.” Butler is making her National Ballet debut with a world premiere set to the music of American composer John Adams.

Butler is working with Adams’ 1994 composition for the Kronos Quartet, John’s Book of Alleged Dances, which features strings and recorded piano sounds in a collection of “dances” that can be played in any order. Butler’s choreographic vignettes will change order with the music for a total of three possible chronologies. The ballet’s organic quality, its resistance to being fixed, is integral to Butler’s themes of memory and identity.

“My piece is a dialogue with John’s score that explores a series of personal recollections of events and the repeated action of attempting to control, maintain, restructure and dismantle them,” says Butler. “Abstracted through a game of hide and seek, this ballet seeks to source various components of veracity as the viewer examines how light and shadow, physicality, text and sequence of sound are obscured to deconstruct and underscore one’s own sense of self in a maelstrom of memory.”

The title of Butler’s piece, Alleged Dances, underscores her intent to engage thematically with Adams’ music. Born In Massachusetts, Adams is a leading figure in contemporary classical music, celebrated for his expressive quality, humanist themes and brilliant sound. His body of work includes the acclaimed opera Nixon in China and his Pulitzer Prize-winning On the Transmigration of Souls, a commemorative piece for 9/11.

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Rena Butler. Photo by Kevin Michael Briggs.

“Rena has such a contagious curiosity in all disciplines,” says Muir. “She is a creative force in the studio and the world is taking notice, which makes the timing of this premiere really exciting. When I think about expanding the National Ballet repertoire with new voices, she is forefront in my mind.”

Butler shares the Winter Mixed Programme with George Balanchine’s Symphony in C and the company premiere of Anima Animus by David Dawson – a fabulous showcase for the fluency and artistic excellence of the National Ballet today.

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Rena Butler. Photo by Jacob Jonas.


Existence is Resistance >
"I am Rena Butler and I have a lot to me, more than just the colour of my skin and the parts that make up my body. I am a thinker, I'm a feeler, I'm an explorer."
Read this Q&A with Rena Butler and Tene Ward.


Alleged Dances is onstage March 3 — 23. Learn more

Lead philanthropic support for Alleged Dances is provided by an Anonymous Donor, with additional support provided by The Producers’ Circle.

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