From the ground up: NAC Dance, catalyst of creation

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Cathy Levy © Dwayne Brown

NAC Dance is proud to present Canadian work. But it also has a long history of co-producing with Canadian dance artists and actively partnering in the creation and development of new work.

“Co-producing allows the NAC to be one of a series of important organizations around the world in the creation of dance,” says Cathy Levy, Executive Producer of Dance at the National Arts Centre. 

“Artists need resources, and the NAC’s piece of the pie helps to make a new work happen. It places the NAC as a leader, to be there in the development process from the ground up.”

Co-producing can happen in a number of ways, Levy says.

“I get involved in projects that I feel strongly about. In some cases, it’s after viewing an artist’s first work, and I feel that they have an original point of view, or something innovative about them.”

Those relationships often become long-standing. For example, Levy has supported the career of acclaimed dancer-choreographer Crystal Pite of Vancouver and her company Kidd Pivot since the beginning.

“With ongoing collaborations with certain artists, I keep in touch, I meet with them regularly.  When they come to me with an idea, it’s a discussion, and it feeds the process. I may share some ideas, and give support.”

Co-producing also means the NAC’s name is attached to those new works wherever they go. For example, Crystal Pite’s shows Dark Matters, Tempest Replica, and until recently Lost Action, are touring in the U.S. and in Europe. All are NAC co-productions.

“As long as Crystal is invited to perform those works anywhere in the world, whether it’s in Frankfurt or in Calgary, the NAC’s name is attached. It means that we are ambassadors as Canadian dance leaders in the world. We’re showing our commitment, and that our commitment is long-term.”

NAC Dance is also a catalyst for creation as a member of CanDance, a Canadian network of dance presenters. Through the CanDance Creation Fund, NAC Dance can propose projects and artists they believe in. When four presenting partners agree to support the commissioning and presentation of a new work, they can apply for matching funds from CanDance Network. These projects can then garner the interest of other organizations, as is the case with Crystal Pite’s next work, which will be also be supported by the PanAm Games and Canadian Stage in Toronto. 

In recent years, the NAC has been supporting younger artists such as Calgary’s Helen Husak, Ottawa hip-hop artist Yvon Soglo (a.k.a. Crazy Smooth) and Anne Plamondon of Montreal.  

Even though an investment may be small at the start, the association with the NAC is extremely valuable, Levy says.

“It’s a way to signal that ‘The NAC believes in me enough to support my next creation.' Other organizations stand up and take notice. It puts a beacon on that artist or that company. In that way, a small amount of resources can go a long way. And once again, it allows us to be involved from the ground up.”

Canada Dance Festival

NAC Dance invests heavily in Canadian creation through the Canada Dance Festival: not only does the NAC co-produce the Festival, it regularly co-produces a number of works on the lineup, such as A Soldier’s Tale by Aboriginal artist Michael Greyeyes, which premiered in Toronto and was presented at the 2014 Canada Dance Festival.

Associate Dance Artists

NAC Dance also supports Canadian dance through its Associate Dance Artists program, a partnership with the Dance Section of the Canada Council for the Arts.  The ADA program brings together 11 choreographers from across the country to see international works presented by the NAC, to meet and discuss ideas with artists on the NAC Dance season, and to share perspectives with each other about their challenges, projects and future plans. 

Production Residencies

Dancers often have limited time to prepare in the performance hall—sometimes only one day—which can pose a significant challenge: being in the hall is a vastly different experience than the rehearsal studio. NAC Dance aims to gives its co-productions two or three extra days in the performance space. “It gives the artists time to work with the space, the lighting and the music, and to have a better overall sense of the production before opening night.”

NAC Dance also partners with internationally renowned dance artists—people like U.K.-based dancer/choreographer Akram Khan, Belgium’s Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and Berlin-based Meg Stuart.

“We try to play on the international stage so that those artists can have a special relationship with us, so that we can have the Canadian premieres of their work, so that they can meet the Associate Dance Artists, and so that the NAC’s name is out there.”

2014-2015 Dance Co-Productions

So Blue by Louise Lecavalier | Fou Glorieux  (Montreal)

“She is someone for whom I have the utmost respect. She’s been a huge influence on the Quebec, Canadian and international scenes,” Levy says. "This is her first self-choreographed work, a solo with duet sections, which was first seen at the Festival TransAmériques (renowned dance and theatre festival in Montreal) and was a huge success. It’s opening our season.”

new solo by Amber Funk Barton | the response (Vancouver)

“She is someone I wanted to give a boost to. She works closely with Josh Martin, who we’re also presenting with his piece Leftovers. They’re doing a duet called Hero & Heroine,  but I also asked Amber to create a new solo especially for this evening to showcase her wonderful strength as a performer.”

NTU by Vincent Mantsoe (Face 2 Face series) (South Africa)

The 2015 edition of Face 2 Face will feature a collection of artists from different places in Africa. The most established of these is Vincent Mantsoe. “He performed a solo work here a few years ago, but he wanted to rework it, so the piece will be different, it will have grown.”

Facets by Tedd Robinson (Ottawa)

“I love his projects.  They’re all different, and they’re all quirky. His association with us has been a wonderful partnership. Facets will be part of Ontario Scene. This project is based on a number of his solo works that he is now giving to other artists to reinterpret and to reflect back in different ways.”

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