There was a magical moment at the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards Gala last May and it began with a phone call to Guillaume Côté, principal dancer and choreographic associate with the National Ballet of Canada.
“I called Guillaume in January and asked him if he would do a tribute for Canadian dancer, teacher and artistic director, Anik Bissonnette in honour of her winning a Governor General Lifetime Achievement Award. He immediately said, “I will dance for her!” then went on to say he would create a work specifically in her honour,” recalls Kari Cullen, Special Advisor to the President and CEO at the NAC.
Kari admits she was thrilled but also a little cautious. “Usually we remount an existing work that was important to the artist,” she explains. “I was excited but also felt a sense of responsibility to Guillaume to give him the time and space he needed to create his best work.”
With the NAC’s commitment to new creation, Kari and the production team were determined to give Guillaume every opportunity to create his tribute. “We had three hours to set the piece on the NAC stage and ensure it worked with a live orchestra,” Kari recalls. “Meanwhile we brought in a lighting director Guillaume had worked with create the environment they had talked about but not actually seen.”
The result was a moving tribute from one dancer to another. “Anik was so touched. She had her hands up to face like she’d just opened the best Christmas present. The audience was on its feet. They had just witnessed a real connection between two remarkable Canadian dancers,“ says Kari.
Since its world premiere, Guillaume has performed the piece called Body of Work as a NAC commission several times including at the National Ballet of Canada’s MAD HOT DANCE Gala in June.
“Through this commission, the NAC with the help of our supporters enabled a great artist to create a new piece of work to share with audiences around the world,” says Kari. “As Guillaume develops as a choreographer, he needs opportunities like this one to create works that could extend his artistic career. We gave him a chance to stretch his wings.”