A "True Homecoming" for Julia Adam
by Caroline Dickie
February 14, 2019

This winter, The National Ballet of Canada presents a selection of short works by new and established choreographers, including the company premiere of Night by Canadian Julia Adam. A graduate of Canada’s National Ballet School and former Corps de Ballet member with the National Ballet under Artistic Director Erik Bruhn, Adam was a Principal Dancer at San Francisco Ballet before pursuing choreography full-time. Night marks her first creative partnership with the National Ballet.

“I started thinking about a collaboration with the National Ballet several years ago,” Adam says. “But it was seeing the company’s fantastic performances of Nijinsky in San Francisco that prompted me to really pursue it. Artistic Director Karen Kain and I began to talk seriously and we decided on Night.”

Created for San Francisco Ballet in 2000, Night enters the imaginative landscape of a solitary dreamer, inspired by the abstract paintings of Marc Chagall. Dreams of flying, being caught, falling and sailing unfold over the course of a ballet Adam describes in terms of archetypal imagery and expansive space.
Night is the first piece I created for San Francisco Ballet’s main stage,” she says. “Helgi Tomasson, Artistic Director, called four of us into his office to ask if we would contribute to his Discovery Program for new works. After that meeting, I stood on the stage and thought, how do I fill this space? Dreams can do that. That’s how it started.” 

The shifting, dreamlike world of Night is informed by an original and commissioned score by Matthew Pierce, the first of several that he has created for Adam’s work. 

“There is so much layering in Matthew’s music, and as a choreographer, that gives me a lot to build on,” Adam says. “I like to use theme and variation but I also try to find sounds beneath the obvious ones. Matthew’s score for Night is also fun, the piece itself is fun. It pulls us out of our normal musical paradigm and gives us something surprising.”

The world premiere of Night was so successful that San Francisco Ballet then toured the work to Paris, London and New York City and it has since been added to the repertoire of The Joffrey Ballet in Chicago.

Adam remains an exciting choreographic voice in North America and a strong female presence in a field that has been disproportionately male.

“I suspect some aspect of the gender inequality comes back to the way dancers are trained,” she says. “There are far fewer boys in ballet than girls, so in a sense, boys are freer to be themselves, whereas girls learn to conform. To be a choreographer, you need enough self-esteem to stand at the front of the room and be vulnerable.”

Adam has played with gender identity while restaging Night for the National Ballet, even reimagining the female lead as a man.

“Restaging a piece for new dancers adds new life to it and you have to be open to change,” she says. “I’m just so thrilled to be working with this beautiful company, with my childhood idol Karen Kain and with so many former colleagues and classmates, including my dear friend Christopher Stowell, who I danced with at San Francisco Ballet and who commissioned new work from me while he was Artistic Director at Oregon Ballet Theater. This has been a true homecoming!”

Night is onstage March 1 – 3 and March 20 – 21, 2019 with Apollo & The Sea Above, The Sky Below & Paquita.

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