National Arts Centre


National Arts Centre


Angels' Atlas & Serenade & The Four Seasons

Angels' Atlas


Crystal Pite, the Olivier Award-winning choreographer, created Angels’ Atlas for The National Ballet of Canada in March 2020 to rapturous reviews. The ballet unfolds against a morphing wall of light that carries the illusion of depth and a sense of the natural world. Here, the dancing body becomes a sign of humanity’s impermanence and – equally – its vitality within a vast, unknowable world. Set to original music by Owen Belton and choral pieces by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Morten Lauridsen, Angels’ Atlas is a profound new work from one of the world’s leading contemporary choreographers.

Five Things to Know
  1. 1The impetus for Angels’ Atlas came from Crystal Pite’s partner and set designer Jay Gower Taylor who worked with lighting designer Tom Visser to develop an analog method of manipulating reflective light to create complex, painterly images. 
  2. 2For Pite, the backdrop of light suggested “a frontier, a portal, a portrait of the unknown.” It reminded her of “the dizzying thrill” she experienced as a child considering her place within the cosmos and wondering about colossal ideas beyond her grasp.
  3. 3A quote from writer and critic Max Wyman about dance greatly inspired Pite: “No other artform speaks so directly about the fragile, temporary quality of life, or about the human instinct to transcend those bonds and aim for that perfect moment of self-realization.”
  4. 4Pite wanted Angels’ Atlas to evoke “a fierce pulse of life.” She achieves this in part through the score, which includes electronic music by her longtime collaborator Owen Belton featuring samples of clicking sounds, voices, bells and a heartbeat.
  5. 5Two ethereal choral works bookend Belton’s score: Tchaikovsky’s liturgical Hymn of the Cherubim and Morten Lauridsen’s contemporary work, O Magnum Mysterium. Pite chose vocal works in part because they are tied so irrevocably to the body.
The Creator

A former dancer with Ballet British Columbia and Ballett Frankfurt under William Forsythe, Crystal Pite is now a leading contemporary choreographer. She is Associate Choreographer of Nederlands Dans Theater, Associate Dance Artist of Canada’s National Arts Centre and Associate Artist at Sadler’s Wells, London. Her company, Kidd Pivot, performs her original creations around the world. 

The Composers

Canadian composer Owen Belton incorporates a range of acoustic and electronic instruments in his music together with found or common sounds. His many scores for dance have been performed by Kidd Pivot, Ballett Frankfurt and Nederlands Dans Theater, among others. Belton also performs as a singer-songwriter with the band Lost Hombre.

Morten Lauridsen is an American composer of choral music, former Composer-in-Residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale (1994 – 2001) and professor of composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. In 2007, he received the National Medal of Arts for “radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power and spiritual depth.”

The late 19th century Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky created some of the most popular works in the classical repertoire, particularly his three full-length scores for ballet: Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. His body of work includes full-length operas, multiple symphonies and concertos.

Angels’ Atlas View Gallery



Created in 1934, Serenade was George Balanchine’s first original ballet created in the US and one of many he set to the music of his beloved composer Tchaikovsky, in this case the beautiful, mournful Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48. Today, Serenade is an iconic Balanchine work, especially for its unforgettable opening scene – an ensemble of women standing together, heads turned, one arm raised to the sky.

Five Things to Know
  1. George Balanchine created Serenade for students at the School of American Ballet, an institution he co-founded with Lincoln Kirstein and Edward Warburg, and was first performed at the estate of Felix Warburg in White Plains, New York on June 10, 1934. Intended as a lesson for students, Serenade is now a signature work of New York City Ballet, the company Balanchine directed until his death in 1983.
  2. Balanchine reworked Serenade throughout his career. Significant changes include splitting the single female lead of the original into three parts: the Waltz Girl, the Russian Girl and the Dark Angel.
  3. The National Ballet of Canada first performed Serenade in 1962, introducing the company and its audiences to one of Balanchine’s pivotal works when he was still at the helm of New York City Ballet and very much a modern choreographer.
  4. One of the most striking elements of Serenade as it exists today was not part of the original version. Balanchine decided many years later, while working with the female leads, that the women should dance with their hair loose in the final movement.
  5. Music is everything in a Balanchine ballet and particularly so in Serenade, where Tchaikovsky’s score sets the mood and impels the movement. Balanchine has said, “The only story is the music’s story, a serenade, if you like, in the light of the moon.”
The Creator

Born in St. Petersburg, George Balanchine, co-founder and director of New York City Ballet, is one of the most renowned and prolific choreographers of the 20th century. He is credited with revolutionizing the look of classical ballet for a new era in works of unprecedented musicality and aesthetic brilliance.

The Composer

The late 19th century Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky created some of the most popular works in the classical repertoire, particularly his three full-length scores for ballet: Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. His body of work includes full-length operas, symphonies and concertos.


“Exquisitely captured by the mostly female Corps de Ballet who demonstrated just how strong the National [Ballet]’s women are.” — The Globe and Mail

“Undiminished by the 70 years that have passed since its creation… thanks, in no small part to the skill and devotion brought to the work by the artists of The National Ballet of Canada” — Toronto Star

“One of the masterpieces of 20th century ballet” — Toronto Star

Serenade View Gallery

The Four Seasons


James Kudelka created The Four Seasons for The National Ballet of Canada in 1997, giving the company one of its most iconic works and a first-class leading role – A Man. The anonymous figure who stands in for humanity as he traverses the seasons of life, from the exuberance of Spring through Summer’s passion, Autumn’s maturity and the quiet setting of Winter. Masterfully choreographed to Antonio Vivaldi’s eponymous score, The Four Seasons is an emotional, poetic work that underscores the collective human experience.

Five Things to Know
  1. James Kudelka created the role of A Man for former Principal Dancer Rex Harrington. As Artist-in-Residence with The National Ballet of Canada, Mr. Harrington now coaches other male dancers in the dramatic and technical challenges of the role.
  2. The Four Seasons was filmed for the CBC in 1999 by Rhombus Media and Veronica Tennant Productions starring Rex Harrington, a performance that earned him a Gemini Award. The film also starred Chan Hon Goh as Spring, Greta Hodgkinson as Summer, Martine Lam as Autumn and Victoria Bertram as Winter.
  3. The Four Seasons evokes feelings and images around the different stages of life and experiences but is otherwise an abstract, non-narrative ballet.
  4. Kudelka’s choreography is ambitious, with complex partnering, fast footwork and quick changes of direction, particularly in the Summer pas de deux. The foundation is classical but with a contemporary feel.
  5. Renowned for distinctive versions of such classics as The Nutcracker and Cinderella, both signature works for the National Ballet, Kudelka is also known for smaller scale works rich in human psychology and drama.

The Four Seasons View Gallery


Angels’ Atlas

Crystal Pite

Original Music:
Owen Belton

Additional Music:
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Morten Lauridsen

Reflective Light Backdrop Concept:
Jay Gower Taylor

Reflective Light Backdrop Design:
Jay Gower Taylor and Tom Visser

Lighting Design:
Tom Visser

Costume Design:
Nancy Bryant

Assistant to the Choreographer:
Spencer Dickhaus

Produced and commissioned by The National Ballet of Canada.

A co-production of The National Ballet of Canada and Ballett Zürich.

Philanthropic support for Angels’ Atlas is generously provided by An Anonymous Donor, Rosamond Ivey, Ira Gluskin & Maxine Granovsky Gluskin, The Producers’ Circle, The Volunteer Committee of The National Ballet of Canada and The Gail Hutchison Fund.

The Producers’ Circle: Gail & Mark Appel, John & Claudine Bailey, Inger Bartlett & Marshal Stearns, Laura Dinner & Richard Rooney, Gail Drummond & Bob Dorrance, The Thor E. and Nicole Eaton Family Charitable Foundation, Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan, Kevin Garland & Roger Garland, C.M., 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 & Joan Lozinski, The Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain, C.C., Julie Medland, Sandra Pitblado & Jim Pitblado, C.M., The Harry & Lillian Seymour Family Foundation, Gerald Sheff & Shanitha Kachan and The Jack Weinbaum Family Foundation.


George Balanchine

Staged by:
Joysanne Sidimus

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Costume Design:
Barbara Karinska

Lighting Design:
Ronald Bates

The Four Seasons

James Kudelka, O.C.

Antonio Vivaldi

Costume Design:
TRAC COSTUME: Carmen Alie and Denis Lavoie

Lighting Design:
David Finn

Projections and Scenic Effects:
Chris Wise

The Four Seasons is a gift from The Volunteer Committee, The National Ballet of Canada.

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