A New Role for Stephanie Hutchison
June 13, 2023
Stephanie Hutchison in The Four Seasons. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
Principal Character Artist Stephanie Hutchison has been appointed Rehearsal Director for The National Ballet of Canada, a role that develops her recent work with the Artistic Department. Stephanie joined the company as a member of the Corps de Ballet in 1997 and has performed an extensive repertoire as Second Soloist, First Soloist and Principal Character Artist. She has also served as the company’s Pointe Shoe Manager and Assistant Ballet Mistress. Here, she reflects on her singular performing career and her newest role behind the scenes.
This June, you will retire as Principal Character Artist but continue with the company as Rehearsal Director. What does your new role involve and how will your experience as an artist serve you in it?
Being a Rehearsal Director involves everything from assisting a choreographer in the creation of a piece to learning and staging an existing work. In addition to learning and teaching the choreography, we have to understand the score, create a good working environment in the studio and develop a strong coaching technique. But the most important thing is giving the dancers the opportunity to be their absolute best. This is an amazing challenge as each dancer is unique and the approach needs to be tailored to them. It can also be challenging in larger group rehearsals.
Stephanie Hutchison and Etienne Lavigne in Romeo and Juliet. Photo by Sian Richards.
There is no schooling or course you can take to be a great rehearsal director. I believe you become one through diligent and open-minded work. I am learning from and have been supported in this process by past and present Artistic teams at the National Ballet.
As a dancer I was always trying to be better, always searching for the perfectly executed performance when art, emotion and technique were in balance. It was a process that fuelled me every time I went on stage. Now, as I pivot to my new role, I hope to bring this philosophy to rehearsal directing.
Your career has evolved with you over more than 25 years at the National Ballet. What has that experience been like?
I feel very fortunate to have experienced so many positions within the company under three wonderful Artistic Directors. From the camaraderie and challenges unique to the Corps de Ballet, the years expanding my skills and repertoire in Soloist positions and finally my sheer enjoyment in expressing and developing a character, it has been a privilege at every stage. I was absolutely thrilled to start developing my skills as a Rehearsal Director several years ago, assisting choreographers such as Crystal Pite, James Kudelka, Robert Binet and Siphesihle November. My colleagues have been incredibly open and welcoming, and for that I couldn’t be more grateful. I am being challenged and rewarded in a whole new way.
Stephanie Hutchison in Emergence. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
When you look back on your career, are there moments that stand out for you as particularly rewarding?
There have been so many moments! Performances and tours I will never forget, choreographers who shaped me through their work, and relationships that will last a lifetime. James Kudelka deserves special mention. So many of his ballets were momentous for me. Three roles were especially fulfilling: Eva in The Contract (The Pied Piper), the lead woman in ...black night’s bright day... and the woman in The Man in Black. These ballets stand out because they were both artistically and spiritually profound to me, gifts.
I would also single out our recently retired Balanchine Répétiteur Joysanne Sidimus, whom I first met at the age of 15! Without her support I would not have had this kind of career. Also, Karen Kain, who gave me wonderful opportunities late in my career and opened other pathways within the National Ballet, such as coaching. Magdalena Popa who coached me through The Contract (The Pied Piper) and helped me achieve First Soloist. I’ve been blessed to have some very special relationships with members of our donor family whom I would call friends: Judy and Lionel Conacher, John and Claudine Bailey and Jim and Sandra Pitblado who have been a steadfast support my whole career, to name a few.
Hope Muir, who observed all the roles I was performing within the organization when she became our Artistic Director, recognized my work and has now offered me my next great passion in dance. I have so much gratitude.
Stephanie Hutchison in Serenade. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.
One thing I will never forget is watching Angels’ Atlas with Crystal Pite as the company returned to the stage after Covid. The curtain rose on Serenade and the emotion surged palpably, and later the curtain rose again on the dancers I had just worked with on Angels’ Atlas and it was, well, heaven.
As a member of the artistic team, what is your hope for the future of the National Ballet?
I truly want to serve this art form and the people whose passion it is to be here every day, involved in the National Ballet bringing great art to our audiences. I want to collaborate with colleagues who desire what is best for the artists and the art form and to be part of Hope’s vison as she navigates us into the future.