The album cover for "Encount3rs" depicts a poised dancer floating in a scattered pose, donning ballet point shoes and a beige ballet outfit. The background showcases a radial gradient in a grey-beige colour tone, adding a touch of elegance.
NACO Recordings


Released September 29, 2017

Composers: Andrew Staniland, Nicole Lizée,Kevin Lau
Performers: National Arts Centre Orchestra, Alexander Shelley
Periods: Contemporary
Genres: Orchestral Music

2018 – JUNO nomination for Classical Composition of the Year
Andrew Staniland for Phi, Caelestis

Cathy Levy, Executive Producer, Dance
Alexander Shelley, Music Director and Conductor

This landmark NAC commission pairs three of Canada’s outstanding choreographic talents with three of the country’s most exciting composers. Alberta Ballet’s eminent and prolific Jean Grand-Maître joined forces with multiple award-winning new music visionary Andrew Staniland; Ballet BC’s trail-blazing Emily Molnar met her musical match with innovative composer Nicole Lizée; and Guillaume Côté, gifted dancer and choreographic associate with the National Ballet of Canada, was perfectly paired with noted composer Kevin Lau.

The resulting remarkable new one-act ballets and their original orchestral scores were premiered to great acclaim, by dozens of dazzling dancers together with the National Arts Centre Orchestra under the baton of Music Director Alexander Shelley on April 20, 21 and 22, 2017. This unprecedented Creation project, event and recording marks Canada’s 150th anniversary!

ENCOUNT3RS is made possible by generous donors to the National Arts Centre Foundation, including The Honourable Margaret McCain, C.C., who believe in investing in Canadian creators.

The works

Phi, Caelestis

  • Andrew Staniland, Original Composition (Phi)
  • Jean Grand-Maître, Choreography (Caelestis)
  • Wendy Tilby – Amanda Forbis, Video Projection Design
  • Raven Hehr, Costume Design
  • Jock Munro, Lighting Design
  • Dancers: Leiland Charles, Jennifer Gibson, Garrett Groat, Hayna Gutierrez, Mariko Kondo, Alan Ma, Kelley McKinlay, Reilley McKinlay, Nicolas Pelletier, Luna Sasaki

By eating from the tree of knowledge they saw their nakedness, their vulnerability, their humaneness.” — Joni Mitchell

Caelestis is a ballet which randomly contrasts striking contemporary landscapes of the fast changing world we live in with a group of 10 seemingly nude dancers performing a whirlwind of raw, emotional, primal and often erotic gestures before a backdrop of contrasting aesthetics. It is an exploration of our own mortality within the context of a sacred infinity. Delving into such profound and relevant themes with other talented artists has been an exhilarating and memorable journey.

© Jean Grand-Maître

At the onset of this collaboration, choreographer Jean Grand-Maître mailed me a large bundle of inspiring images and texts. The content was as diverse as it was beautiful: images of humanity, technology, nature, beauty, and violence, ranging from abstract to explicit.

The unifying theme was that everything was related in some way to the golden ratio, or Phi. I am no stranger to Phi, having been seduced many years ago by what is often called ‘nature’s most beautiful proportion’. Bartók, Webern and Debussy are known to have used it in their works, usually as a formal proportion (where a musical climax will occur at the golden section, for example). For me, Phi was a catalyst and inspiration both in terms of both extramusical beauty and literal usage in Phi-inspired melodies and harmonies.

The score is in three movements: I: Rex, II: Styx, and III: Eden. The final movement features veiled electronic sound files created with recordings of poet Jill Battson reading quotes from mathematicians speaking about beauty, including Euclid’s “The laws of nature are but the mathematical thoughts of God.”

© Andrew Staniland

Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming

  • Nicole Lizée, Original Composition (Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming)
  • Emily Molnar, Choreography (in collaboration with the artists of Ballet BC)
  • Kate Burrows, Costume Design
  • Jock Munro, Lighting Design
  • Dancers: Brandon Alley, Andrew Bartee, Emily Chessa, Alexis Fletcher, Scott Fowler, Gilbert Small, Christoph von Riedemann, Kirsten Wicklund

Everything escapes me and evaporates. Unceasingly I feel that I was an other, that I felt other, that I thought other. I am a spectator of a play produced with different scenery. And I am a spectator of myself… Everything contains everything else. I have within me all the dreams of the world.” Excerpts from The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa

A dream within a dream within a dream. This work is about the worlds within, where we go to see ourselves, to hear the other. At the start of the process, I asked the dancers “If you were to put your life on hold, where would you go?” From there we started.© Emily Molnar

Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming draws tone and timbre from the neo-noir cinema of the 1980s and 1990s… in the hyper-stylized way motion and travel scenes are filmed and treated… romanticized inertia into hyperkinetic neon rage. Sounds emerge from transitory states… fluctuating between FM radio stations… ghosting like the barely audible music on a warped cassette tape long since overdubbed… further suspended in time by the placelessness of an automobile trip with its bodies in motion, careening around corners in improbable locales or holding steady along unrelentingly rigid lanes at dusk. The rear view mirror reflects a place you never were. The electronic component of the piece was created using analogue and archaic devices: turntables, cassette tapes, omnichords,stylophones, oscillators, and reel-to-reel machines.

A very special thanks to Paolo Kapunan (aka DJ P-Love) for his turntable performance.

© Nicole Lizée

Dark Angels

  • Kevin Lau, Original Composition (Dark Angels)
  • Guillaume Côté, Choreography
  • Yannik Larivée, Set Design
  • Christopher Read, Costume Design
  • Jock Munro, Lighting Design
  • Dancers: Skylar Campbell, Greta Hodgkinson, Harrison James, Elena Lobsanova, Svetlana Lunkina, Evan McKie, Félix Paquet, Sonia Rodriguez, Dylan Tedaldi, Xiao Nan Yu

To collaborate so closely with a composer is always such an exciting and valuable experience. Kevin and I had just finished working on a narrative story ballet Le Petit Prince, and the idea of working on a new score with no storyline was different and wonderful. We decided to start with atmosphere, feelings and emotions. We knew we wanted to develop a work that would reflect the resistance and struggle that one can experience living in new territory and the acclimatization to new places and people. As the music and the dancers started interacting they seemed to become beautiful creatures struggling to find their place in this new world.

© Guillaume Côté

The earliest musical seeds for Dark Angels – which marks my second collaboration with choreographer Guillaume Côté – were planted during the final months of production leading up to the premiere of our first ballet, Le Petit Prince. Our desire to explore completely different terrain, both musically and in movement, led to the creation of a score independent of any particular narrative or subject, with little to constrain its discourse apart from certain sensibilities which we were both drawn to – tension, struggle, resistance, energy.

These elements inform the spirit of Dark Angels, which resembles a symphony in scope and form. A stormy Allegro gives way to a mercurial interlude (where an elegy featuring the solo cello is transformed into a nightmarish vista), paving the way to a finale steeped in ritualistic gestures and propelled by a battery of explosive percussion.

A six-note rhythmic “hammer” weaves its way through the score like an iron thread. The title Dark Angels is, to me, a metaphor for human nature: its capacity for love and its impulse toward violence, both entwined within the same fragile frame.

© Kevin Lau