NAC Dance returns to the stage for their 2021–22 season with four incredible programs this year. I spoke with Cathy Levy, Executive Producer of NAC Dance, about this new season and how they are ensuring it will be safe and exciting.
With an incredible lineup of performances, this season is bound to be an exciting return! The lineup includes Jose Navas | Compagnie Flak’s Winterreise, Out Innerspace Dance Theatre’s Bygones, Ballet BC’s Triple Bill (GARDEN • Bedroom Folk • The Statement), and Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s The Nutcracker. The season is a perfect balance of classical and contemporary, solo and ensemble. “It’s great to be able to really turn our focus to supporting Canadian artists, getting people back in the building, and bringing audiences back to celebrate Canadian artists,” says Levy.
With an in-person season in our midst, Levy emphasizes that “the important thing is to let people know we are taking safety as our top priority!”
The season opened with Winterreise by José Navas from November 10–12. “José is a Montreal-based choreographer and dancer. This is a piece inspired by the music of Franz Schubert. I remember him talking to me about this music years ago, before he made this piece,” says Levy. “He’s on stage morphing from one character to the next as they go through the different chapters of this song cycle.” Winterreise, a setting of Wilhelm Müller’s 24 poems, was Schubert’s last work, and is characterized by its bleak and lonely journey.
Next up is Bygones by Out Innerspace Dance Theatre, from November 19–20 in the Babs Asper Theatre. “Bygones celebrates how we are shaped by what we overcome, and how something challenging can lead to something beautiful,” says Levy. Vancouver-based Out Innerspace Dance Theatre is a theatre company Levy has been “interested in for many years.” Tiffany Tregarthen and David Raymond, co-artistic directors, were dancers for Crystal Pite’s Kidd Pivot.
“These two are really amazing artists—I’m really anxious for the local patrons to learn more about them.” The performance is a “really beautiful quintet, with them performing with three others. It’s quite magical and mysterious and involves elements of illusion and filmic elements,” says Levy.
Ballet BC brings an impressive Triple Bill along with a new Artistic Director, Medhi Walerski, to Southam Hall from November 25–26. It includes Walerski’s GARDEN, inspired by Camille Saint-Saëns’ Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 14; Sharon Eyal’s and Gai Behar’s Bedroom Folk; and Crystal Pite’s The Statement. Levy says of Medhi: “He is a beautiful choreographer in his own right. He’s put together a really beautiful program with two amazing women out in this world [Sharon Eyal and Crystal Pite].” This show is an opportunity to see Pite’s The Statement, which “in March of 2020, when the pandemic shut down all our programming, Nederlands Dans Theater was supposed to perform,” explains Levy.
Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet returns with The Nutcracker December 3–5. “The Nutcracker—what can I say—it should be here the first week of December or it doesn’t feel like the holidays,” says Levy. Royal Winnipeg last performed their Nutcracker at the NAC in 2019, which I personally attended twice, and it is an absolute treat steeped in Canadiana. This year, though, a few things are different.
“One change will be that we can’t involve as many children as we want. There are three children locally involved in the show,” says Levy. At any rate, the Nutcracker’s festive return is so exciting! “It is such a beautiful way to get people joyful around the holiday season and to welcome dance back to the building,” Levy adds.
Levy and I spoke at length about the novelty that is an in-person season after 20 months without one! “There’s this incredible elation to stand there and watch people come into the venue again and I am very happy and excited about that,” says Levy. After a successful DanceForth program, Levy was interested in combining a diverse array of dance for the season.
“If you look at all of [the shows] it’s a perfect combination of familiarity and newness. I always say that I am trying to plan a horizontal experience for the audience from the fall to spring and vertical, so every show in and of itself has a place to be and something to express.”
I couldn’t help but comment on the really impressive programming combinations through the years, to which Levy replies, “Dance is so broad, and there is so much, and I haven’t even brought everything I want to bring, and I’ve been here for a few years.”
We ended our chat talking about how she is feeling going into the new season. “I am so grateful I get to do this work, to bring this art form to people I care about,” Levy explains. “We look back on some of the things we wrote last year. The absolute and incredible disbelief and denial of what we went through—it really is incredible that we have supported each other so much. Ultimately, I am very excited to get people back on the stage to see the stories our dancers have.”
Levy’s final word of advice: “Please come and be in the space, we will take good care of you!”
Tickets for the remaining NAC Dance performances of 2021 are on sale now. Visit the NAC website for more information. Mask, proof of full vaccination, and ID are required to attend performances.