Winter Triple Bill

World Premiere
UtopiVerse
Company Premieres
islands & Suite en Blanc

March 20 – 24, 2024

Winter Triple Bill

World Premiere
UtopiVerse
Company Premieres
islands & Suite en Blanc

March 20 – 24, 2024
Buy Tickets

Winter Triple Bill

The Winter Triple Bill offers a rich journey into different dance forms on one exciting programme. The Canadian premiere of Suite en Blanc, a glorious ode to classical virtuosity, invites you to be swept away in the spectacle and precision of ballet. The world premiere of acclaimed Canadian choreographer William Yong’s futuristic UtopiVerse is a multi-disciplinary exploration of the concepts of “utopia” and “paradise lost” and Emma Portner’s riveting duet islands marks the National Ballet debut of one of Canada’s most innovative and versatile dance artists.

Canadian Premiere
Suite en Blanc

Overview

Serge Lifar created his showpiece Suite en Blanc, a full company work of technical purity, for Paris Opéra Ballet in 1943, saying “I am preoccupied with pure dance, independent of all other considerations.” Named for the dancers’ pristine white costumes and often compared to Harald Lander’s Études, Suite en Blanc pays homage to the classical form with dazzling choreography and unmistakable French flair. Set to the music of Édouard Lalo, Lifar’s ballet is an exciting addition to The National Ballet of Canada’s repertoire of classical works.

Things to Know
  1. 1Lifar once described Suite en Blanc as “a succession of authentic little technical etudes, choreographic miniatures independent of each other but related to each other by the same neo-classical style.”
     
  2. 2Suite en Blanc is set to musical excerpts from Lucien Petipa’s ballet Namouna, composed by Édouard Lalo. Lifar abandoned the plot from Namouna but retained the names of the individual dances.
     
  3. 3The ballet gets its name from the dancers’ pristine white costumes. When the male dancers wore black costumes in subsequent stagings, the named changed to Noir et Blanc.
     
  4. 4Variations from Suite en Blanc are often performed as standalone pieces in competitions and galas. One of the most famous is a solo, La Cigarette.
     
  5. 5Serge Lifar was an esteemed dancer of the 20th century notably having danced the role of Apollo in the world premiere of George Balanchine’s Apollon Musagète in 1928.
Watch and Explore

Suite en Blanc View Gallery

The Choreographer

Born in Ukraine, Serge Lifar was one of the great male dancers of the 20th century. He trained with Bronislava Nijinska and Enrico Cecchetti and became a star performer with Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes and Paris Opera Ballet. He was the long serving director of Paris Opéra Ballet, where he staged and choreographed a large body of work.

The Composer

Édouard Lalo was a French composer and violinist of the 19th century notable for his chamber music and orchestral works. His oeuvre includes the celebrated Symphonie espagnole for violin and orchestra and his ballet Namouna for Lucien Petipa, which premiered with Paris Opéra Ballet in 1882.

Reviews

Suite en Blanc is a jewel in the classical repertoire. It glows like a pearl in its unadorned technical precision, while exuding that elusive essence of Parisian chic.” – Seeing Dance

“Authentic, vintage neoclassicism” – Los Angeles Times

“Serge Lifar's ballet is the most supremely elegant of crowd-pleasers.” – The Guardian

World Premiere by William Yong
UtopiVerse

Overview

Toronto-based choreographer William Yong creates his first commission for The National Ballet of Canada. Yong’s voice integrates his muti-disciplinary experience and will showcase the versatility of our artists. Founder of two companies that serve as incubators for his work, Zata Omm Dance Projects and W Zento Production, Yong has an international presence as a respected dancer, choreographer and director.

Things to Know
  1. 1Yong integrates technology in innovative ways. Hailed as the "biggest staging sustainability experiment" (My Entertainment World) on Canadian stages, his 2015 piece vox:lumen partnered with the energy sector to invent several technology devices that captured and stored solar and kinetic energy that powered the the entire full-length dance production.
     
  2. 2Yong has been profiled in several documentary shorts, including the 2015 film about the creation of vox:lumen for Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage, by filmmaker Timothy Garrett.
     
  3. 3Yong is also an accomplished performer and has worked with such companies as Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance, Matthew Bourne’s Adventures in Motion Pictures, Toronto Dance Theatre, Peggy Baker Dance Projects and Côté Danse, run by Principal Dancer Guillaume Côté.
     
  4. 4Yong has choreographed and performed in several music videos, including Rise Up Light by The Used, Modern Love by Mother Mother, Cold Blood by Apocalytica and Part of You by Adaline.
     
  5. 5Yong holds a master’s degree with distinction from the University of Kent where he completed his dissertation on dance and film. With his production company W Zento, he created over 36 short films and won seven film awards including Madrid Arthouse Film Festival, Barcelona Indie Awards and Venice Short Film Awards.
Watch and Explore

William Yong's UtopiVerse: Navigating the Unknown

UtopiVerse Film

UtopiVerse Film

William Yong View Gallery

Read Article: UtopiVerse Unveiled

The Choreographer

William Yong is a Canadian choreographer, dancer, designer and director. Trained at Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and the London Contemporary Dance School, he works internationally to create technology-driven work for stage and film. Yong holds an M.A. from the University of Kent where he completed a dissertation on dance and film.

The Score

A curated selection of pieces by Benjamin Britten featuring strings was the musical impetus for William Yong’s UtopiVerse. Beginning with the first movement of Britten’s Violin Concerto, Yong chose several string quartet movements along with selections from the Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge. Canadian composer Constantine Caravassilis partners with Yong and filmmaker Thomas Payette for a multidisciplinary and futuristic experience.

Reviews

“Through choreography I try to develop a profound relationship between dance and technology.” – William Yong in Now Magazine

“Yong embraces an experimental approach when creating works of his own... It shows Yong going where no Canadian choreographer before him has gone before.” – Critics at Large

“Yong, who is gifted at transforming the familiar into something fresh and provocative, laced with sharp irony and driven by a strong musical connection.” – Eye Magazine

“It is spell-binding, disturbing, fascinating, provocative, and profound theatre.” – Lighting and Sound America Magazine on Steer

North American Premiere
islands

Overview

The National Ballet of Canada is thrilled to present the North American premiere of islands, a sculptural duet for two women by Canada’s Emma Portner, a star on the international dance scene. islands was named a triumph when it premiered with Norwegian National Ballet in 2020, prompting an invitation to tour with the prestigious Dialogues festival alongside choreographic luminaries such as Crystal Pite and Jiří Kylián. An acclaimed work from a genre-breaking choreographer, islands is set to an eclectic compilation of music by contemporary artists.

Things to Know
  1. 1Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Portner trained at The Ailey School in New York City. She was already attracting attention as a choreographer before she was 20 years old and was named American Dance Award’s “Young Choreographer of the Year” in 2013.
     
  2. 2Portner is in high demand internationally. She creates for Netflix, late night television, professional dance and musicians, working on everything from Justin Bieber’s Purpose World Tour to music videos for Maggie Rogers.
     
  3. 3Portner is the youngest woman in history to choreograph a musical on London’s West End: Bat Out of Hell: The Musical, based on the album by Meat Loaf. It premiered in 2017, when Portner was 23 years old.
     
  4. 4islands is set to five pre-existing selections of music by Brambles, Guillaume Ferran & David Spinelli, Forest Swords, Lily Konigsberg and Bing & Ruth.
     
  5. 5islands features lighting by Paul Vidar Saevarang and costumes by Martin Dauchez, who has been a dancer with Norwegian National Ballet since 2011.
Watch and Explore

Emma Portner's islands: Transforming the Story

islands View Gallery

Read Article: Canada’s Emma Portner Presents Critically Acclaimed Duet

The Creator

Ottawa-born Emma Portner is an exciting voice in choreography today. She trained at The Ailey School in New York City, spent summers at Canada’s National Ballet School and is now Artist-in-Residence with Benjamin Millepied’s Los Angeles Dance Project. Portner also produces, manages and directs her own short films and dance company.

The Score

islands is set to a collection of existing music ranging from electronica to classical, eclectic pop and ambient sound for a mesmerizing and decidedly contemporary experience. Featuring musical selections by Brambles, Guillaume Ferran, Forest Swords / Matthew Barnes, Lily Konigsberg and Bing & Ruth.

Reviews

islands is nothing short of a sensational introduction to Portner’s language of movement... More Emma Portner, please!” – Dagens Nyheter

“In islands, Emma Portner invents her version of the pas de deux, with two conjoined twins joined together by the belt who discover each other and combine their bodies.” – Le Figaro

Running Time

  • UtopiVerse 37m
  • Pause 3m
  • islands 20m
  • Intermission 20m
  • Suite en Blanc 40m
  • Total (approx) 2h

Credits

Suite en Blanc

Staged by:
Charles Jude and Stephanie Roublot Jude

Choreography:
Serge Lifar

Music:
Édouard Lalo, Suite from Namouna

World Premiere: Paris Opéra Ballet, Zürich, Switzerland, June 19, 1943

The National Ballet of Canada Premiere: Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, March 20, 2024

UtopiVerse

Choreography:
William Yong

Music:
Benjamin Britten

* Violin Concerto, Op. 15 I, Movement I - Moderato con moto - Agitato - Tempo primo (1940)
** Alla Marcia (1933)
** String Quartet in F, II. Andante (1928)
** String Quartet No. 3, Op. 94, IV. Burlesque (1975)
* Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10, II. Adagio, IX. Funeral & X. Chant (1937)
* The Last Rose of Summer (1957)

Violin Soloist:
Alexi Kenney

String Quartet:
Aaron Schwebel, Jamie Kruspe, Sheila Jaffe & Maurizio Baccante

Additional Music:
Constantine Caravassilis

Set & Costume Design:
William Yong

Lighting Design:
Noah Feaver

Projection Design:
Thomas Payette / Mirari

Content Creation & Generative Design:
Hugues Kir

Metal Head Pieces Design:
Elijah Secrest

Rehearsal Director and Assistant to Choreographer:
Anisa Tejpar

Metal Head Pieces Design:
Elijah Secrest

Rehearsal Director:
Stephanie Hutchison

William Yong would like to thank Zata Omm rehearsal assistants and collaborators: Carleen Zouboules, Willem Sadler, Katherine Semchuk, Natasha Poon Woo, Christian Lavigne, Jessica Mak, Zachary Seto, Evan Webb, Judy Luo and Caiti Carpenter.

Video Content

Director and Editor:
William Yong

Director of Photography:
Jason George

Colourist:
Oliver Salathiel

First Camera Assistant and Focus Puller:
Jurek Osterfeld

Artists featured:
Isabella Kinch and Matthieu Pagès

Grid and Gaffer:
Oscar Weinstein

Make-up and Hair Design:
Alexandre Deslauriers

Production Assistant and Director’s Assistant:
Juliette Coleman

Production Assistant:
James Kendal

World Premiere: The National Ballet of Canada, Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, March 20, 2024

Produced and Commissioned by The National Ballet of Canada.

Lead philanthropic support for UtopiVerse is provided by an Anonymous donor, The Catherine & Maxwell Meighen Foundation, The Hal Jackman Foundation and The Hal Jackman Foundation Fund, with additional support by The Producers’ Circle.

The Producers’ Circle (2024): Gail & Mark Appel, John & Claudine Bailey, Laura Dinner & Richard Rooney, Gail Drummond & Bob Dorrance, Ira Gluskin & Maxine Granovsky Gluskin, The William & Nona Heaslip Foundation, Anna McCowan-Johnson & Donald K. Johnson, O.C., Judy Korthals & Peter Irwin, Mona & Harvey Levenstein, Jerry Lozinski, O.C. & Joan Lozinski, O.C., The Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain, C.C., Julie Medland, Sandra Pitblado, C.M. & Jim Pitblado, C.M., The Harry & Lillian Seymour Family Foundation, The Jack Weinbaum Family Foundation and Alexander Younger & Sarah Richardson.

* By arrangement with Boosey & Hawkes, Inc., publisher, and copyright owner.
** Used by arrangement with European American Music Distributors Company, Canadian and U.S. agent for Faber Music Ltd., London, publisher and copyright owner.

islands

Choreography:
Emma Portner

Staged by:
Whitney Jensen, Samantha Lynch & Darlyn Perez

Music:
Brambles, Guillaume Ferran, Forest Swords / Matthew Barnes, Lily Konigsberg and Bing & Ruth

Costume Design:
Martin Dauchez

Lighting Design:
Paul Vidar Sævarang

World Premiere: The Norwegian Opera & Ballet, Oslo, Norway, March 7, 2020

The National Ballet of Canada Premiere: Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto, March 20, 2024

Lead philanthropic support for islands is provided by The Catherine & Maxwell Meighen Foundation.

Running Time

  • UtopiVerse 37m
  • Pause 3m
  • islands 20m
  • Intermission 20m
  • Suite en Blanc 40m
  • Total (approx) 2h

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