The National Ballet of Canada’s mission is to present the best of classical and contemporary ballet to our audiences, and we commit to upholding our standards of excellence while working towards greater equity, diversity and inclusion. We are committed to expanding the diversity of our dancers and creators so all Canadians can see themselves represented in our culture.
In recent years, the National Ballet has been making concerted efforts to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of our dancer roster, with a goal that our dancers better reflect the population of Canada. In doing so, we must also ensure that all dancers feel safe, supported and valued. All our dancers, as well as Orchestra members, are participating in anti-racism/anti-bias training.
The National Ballet of Canada dancers hail from 16 countries, speak 13 languages with 18 company members identifying as BIPOC/non-Caucasian.
Meet Our Company
Jordana Daumec. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
Listening to Our Artists
“I wanted to give each dancer a safe, confidential space to talk freely and honestly about how they’re feeling about their experiences within the company and what we want to see for the company going forward.”
First Soloist Jordana Daumec
In the summer of 2020, First Soloist Jordana Daumec facilitated a series of small group conversations with the dancers, creating a space to discuss the issues they face and ideas they have to ensure a safe and respectful work culture. These discussions will continue with a second round of conversations which will include Theresa Ruth Howard of MoBBallet as a facilitator to address issues of equity and inclusion as it relates to the specificities of the ballet world.
Dancewear and Shoes for Every Skin Tone
The National Ballet is committed to providing dancewear and shoes for all skin tones. Long overdue, more companies are now producing pointe shoes, ribbon, elastic and tights for women as well as men’s slippers in various skin tones. In 2019, Corps de Ballet member Tene Ward was able to try on a sample pair of pointe shoes that matched her skin; the company has since ordered an entire shipment from London (where most of our dancer's pointe shoes are hand-made). Principal Character Artist and Pointe Shoe Manager Stephanie Hutchison is working with all our dancers to source shoes from the increasing number of brands that are producing more options.
Kevin A. Ormsby, Jera Wolfe, Jennifer Archibald and Vanesa Garcia-Ribala Montoya. Photos by Karolina Kuras, Anders J. Larsson and Michael Slobodian.
New Choreographic Voices
“The Métis people were from two worlds and they connected and created one community, one culture. I think there’s something really beautiful about that idea. As someone who is Métis, I try to bring that idea into my life, my choreography and the way I work.”
Choreographer Jera Wolfe
New work is the lifeblood of any arts organization and this season Artistic Director Karen Kain has commissioned several renowned dancemakers to make their choreographic debuts with the National Ballet as part of Spotlight Series. Choreographers new to the company include Jera Wolfe, Kevin A. Ormsby, Vanesa Garcia-Ribala Montoya and Jennifer Archibald. They bring vibrant new voices to our repertoire and will create work specifically for film. Works by Mr. Wolfe and Mr. Ormsby premiered as part of the company’s 20/21 virtual season and works by Ms. Montoya and Ms. Archibald will be part of the 2021/22 season.
Connecting and Sharing Resources with the Dance Community
“My experience with the National Ballet’s Choreographic Workshop was a complete game changer for me. Not only was it invaluable in translating my contemporary movement vocabulary onto more classical dancers, participating in the Workshop was the catalyst for many other career opportunities that followed, both inside the company and out.”
Choreographic Associate Alysa Pires
“Open Space was such a valuable resource for my project. I realized so much of my work has been small because of the rehearsal spaces independent artists can afford. With one week of larger space it was striking to see how full and explosive the movement became, making me really consider how tied our art is to the spaces we work in.”
Contemporary Dance Artist Emma Kerson
In 2018, the company launched CreativAction, a programme that shares The National Ballet of Canada’s resources to develop Canadian choreographic talent and support the dance community in Toronto. The initiative includes:
This platform provides National Ballet dancers and independent choreographers the opportunity to create works in collaboration with the company’s artists, music and production staff, within the National Ballet’s facilities.
Each season, the National Ballet offers 1,200 hours of studio space free of charge to independent choreographers for one to two-week periods at the Walter Carsen Centre.
Each season, the National Ballet commissions choreographers to create new small scale works that are flexible and innovative.
Increasing Positive Representation in Ballet
The Equity Project
The National Ballet of Canada was a participant in The Equity Project: Increasing the Presence of Blacks in Ballet, a multi-year conference convened by Dance Theatre of Harlem, The International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD) and Dance/USA in 2018 – 2020. The project brought together Artistic and Executive leaders from 21 North American large budget, professional ballet organizations for meetings and coaching with the purpose of increasing the presence of blacks in ballet in all areas of the industry. A highly skilled team of consultants, including Theresa Ruth Howard as a convenor and facilitator, offered a wealth of knowledge and expertise in classical ballet, undoing racism and education to examine the history of ballet and systems of power and privilege, and to provide practical tools for change.
Read Interview with Theresa Ruth Howard
Final Bow for Yellowface
Artistic Director Karen Kain and Executive Director Barry Hughson are committed to Final Bow for Yellowface and have both signed the initiative’s pledge. Final Bow for Yellowface was founded by Georgina Pazcoguin, New York City Ballet Soloist, and Phil Chan, arts administrator and educator, who have asked leaders of ballet companies around the world to sign this pledge: “I love ballet as an artform, and acknowledge that to achieve a diversity amongst our artists, audiences, donors, students, volunteers, and staff, I am committed to eliminating outdated and offensive stereotypes of Asians (Yellowface) on our stages.”
Visit the Final Bow for Yellowface Website