Fall in love with ballet

Whether you are a ballet connoisseur or watching a performance for the first time, Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) invites you to Fall in Love with Ballet. These performances and supporting materials have been curated and created to provide you with a glimpse, through the lens of young artists, into the beautiful world of ballet.
 
Explore the artistry and athleticism that goes into the training of these pre-professional dancers, aged 11-18. In the course of their training, each student spends thousands of hours to perfect their craft before embarking on careers as professional dancers on stages around the world. We are pleased to share a small selection of performances by NBS students that showcase talent in their formative years.
 
 
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Experience performances from Canada's National Ballet School's Professional Ballet-Academic Program students. If you haven't already, you will find yourself falling in love with the magic and power of ballet.

More performances coming soon!

  • Allow each performance to be a sensory experience by feeling and exploring the piece before applying analytical thought.
    • As you watch, think about what you are feeling and what initial thoughts come to mind.
  • Look for diversity of movements and what they say to you. For example, dancers moving in unison, dancers moving differently at the same time, dancers moving quickly, dancers moving slowly, dancers changing formations, dancers moving along a pathway, smooth movements, sharp movements, circular shapes, angular shapes
    • (Remember, there are no wrong answers!)
  • Create a “Watch/Viewing Party”! This can be your family in your home, or a group of friends in their own homes who can use the various technologies that have made it easier to watch something together.

Erik Bruhn's Swan Lake

Experience the technical skill and artistry of Swan Lake! Erik Bruhn’s Swan Lake is one of the most beloved versions of this magical classical ballet. Watch a full performance by NBS’ Professional Ballet-Academic Program students and access engaging accompanying materials, including viewing guides for teachers.
 


Viewing Guides for Teachers:
Click below for PDFs to help you share Swan Lake and ballet with your students.

Grade 4-6     Grade 7-9     Grade 10-12

Aszure Barton's Come In

Watch an excerpt from Aszure Barton's powerful choreographic work Come In and access accompanying materials including viewing guides and interviews.
 


Learn more about Come In
Watch an interview with choreographer Aszure Barton and dancers Siphesihle November, Ryan Tomash and Alexi Skinner.



Viewing Guides for Teachers:
Click below for PDFs to help you share Come In and ballet with your students. 

Grade 4-6         Grade 7-9       Grade 10-12
Canadian choreographer Aszure Barton is the founder and director of Aszure Barton & Artists. Barton was the first artist-inresidence at The Baryshnikov Arts Center in 2005 and has been a resident artist at The Banff Center since 2009. Barton was born and raised in Alberta, Canada, and received her formal training at Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) where, as a student, she helped originate the Stephen Godfrey Choreographic Showcase. She graduated from NBS in 1993. 
Aszure Barton’s Come In was first created for thirteen dancers, including Mikhail Baryshnikov and Hell’s Kitchen Dance. When Barton was an artist in residence at the Baryshnikov Arts Centre, Mikhail Baryshnikov shared a CD of Vladimir Martynov’s score with her. In 2006, Baryshnikov reached out to Aszure, expressing his interest in being part of her creative process using Martynov’s score as a guide. Through this process she began to find “humanity in the moments between the dance movements” (Barton), and collected a series of gestures that became the foundation for the work. After collaborating with Baryshnikov, she grew the cast to create a work that highlights individuality and oneness, with a sense of community that moves in the same direction with patience and humility.

When Mavis Staines, Artistic Director and CEO at NBS, approached Aszure to set a choreography on the professional students, she asked that Aszure work with an all-male cast. This newest version of Come In was modified for NBS students, and has been performed numerous times by an evolving cast of NBS students in Toronto, at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, and at the Holland Dance Festival.

Choreography: Aszure Barton
Staged by: Jonathan Alsberry
Répétiteur: Shaun Amyot
Music: Vladimir Martynov




Jera Wolfe's Arise

Arise, created by Jera Wolfe for Canada’s National Ballet School, explores how collaboration and support for one another enables us to rise up and face challenges in our lives.
 


Learn more about Arise:

Arise by the numbers

As Jera says, “There will always be challenges in life. I have realized that what defines me is not necessarily my failures or accomplishments, but how I rose to face them. We will all have great challenges to overcome in our own lives, everything from personal, political, to environmental. Only by collaborating, supporting and caring together will we be able to arise to face these challenges.”
 
In the current reality, when almost every person on planet Earth is affected by COVID-19, Jera’s message of community and collaboration has never been more poignant. He says, “It’s times like this, when the unthinkable happens, that we need to stand together; we need to be united. It is the foundation of this support that is essential in times of uncertainty.”

Discuss:
  • What does Jera’s message mean to you?
  • Think about a challenge you have experienced or overcome. Why was it challenging? Where or to whom did you turn for support?
  • Think about a time you helped someone face a challenge.
  • How can we, in our own communities, support each other to overcome challenges in our own lives?
For Arise, Jera came into the creative process with movement ideas that were inspired by the music, and put them to the students through workshops to see how they would work. Throughout the process, Jera collaborated with the young artists, sharing his vision and the movement ideas, and then allowed for interpretation from the dancers.

Here, Jera speaks about the choreographic process behind Arise and how he adapted Arise for the NBS Sharing Dance Choreography:

 
With your family or viewing party, discuss:
  • What’s your own interpretation of Arise?
  • What does Arise mean to you as a family or those with whom you are watching?
  • How did you feel watching Arise?
  • Did watching the choreography bring up any memories for you? Why do you think that memory came up? 
  • How could Jera’s message in Arise apply to your own community?

Viewing Guides for Teachers:
Click below for PDFs to help you share the magic of Arise and ballet with your students. 

Grade 4-6        Grade 7-9       Grade 10-12



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Evolution of Ballet

Many people think of ballet only in terms of “toe shoes and tutus” but that is not the whole story.
Many people think of ballet only in terms of “toe shoes and tutus” but that is not the whole story. They are only one element of ballet’s history and don’t emerge until well into the 19th century. Ballet’s early roots are found in Italy in the 15th century where refined communal dance became an important part of social life and lavish spectacle. By the 16th century these ideas had been adopted by the monarchy in France where the ability to move gracefully became an essential part of court life and was used to display power and authority. Originally danced at court by members of the nobility, it was Louis XIV who put into place the conditions that allowed it to move from a court based amateur art form to a theatre-based, fully professional one. With professionalization came rapid developments in technique and the expansion of ballet’s story-telling possibilities. By the 20th century, ballet had absorbed aspects of expressionism, modernism and postmodernism. Its evolution has continued in the 21st century where one can now identify many influences from our increasingly globalized world. Toe shoes and tutus? You can still find them in ballet, but if you take the time to look, you will also find ballets where the dancers wear little besides their toe shoes or even ballets whose movements incorporate aspects of other cultures such as Indian kathak dance.
 

Vocabulary

Classical: A ballet is considered classical when its movements are constructed on the basis of a vocabulary of positions and steps that have been developed and codified over the centuries. These steps include a variety of turns, small and large jumps in which the legs are sometimes beaten together in the air, and various extensions of the leg. Classical ballet is erect, incorporates the use of turnout and usually includes pointe work for women. It honours grace and the appearance of ease in execution. Some classical ballets are simply beautiful responses to music while others tell stories. When story-telling, classical ballet also incorporates a variety of conventional and everyday gestures to indicate meaning.
Contemporary: It is more difficult to define contemporary ballet because, as its name indicates, it is the ballet of our time and so is constantly evolving. It is not bound to any codified form, drawing its inspiration from a variety of artistic sources, as well as the imagination of its individual creators. It may include aspects of classical ballet but also many other types of movement including, but not limited to, the release and contractions of modern dance, martial arts and gymnastics. It is usually turned in, not always erect, often descends to the floor, and does not always aim for grace or strive to conceal effort. It also tackles contemporary themes, which can include the darker sides of the human condition.

Role of the Choreographer

The creation of a ballet begins with a choreographer who engages many tools to create their art. Explore this visual graphic on the role of a choreographer.



Click to download as a PDF

 

Music

Music has the power to affect the choreographer, dancers and every viewer. So how does a choreographer select music? 
Classical ballets often have pieces of music associated with them; a piece that was likely created for the ballet. For example, Tchaikovsky was commissioned to create the music for Swan Lake as the ballet was being created. In the instance of the creation of Serenade, George Balanchine used Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings in C major, which was a piece that had already been composed and in which Balanchine envisioned a ballet in the music itself. Music selection in a contemporary ballet follows a similar process—a choreographer may commission a composition, or come in with ideas on a piece that has already been composed—both approaches have their own influence on the artistic process.

Professional Ballet Training at Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS)

NBS knows how dance affects our bodies, minds and souls. We know it because we live it and help others live it every day.

Training: NBS’ rich history is best reflected in its Professional Ballet Program (PBP), offering Olympic-calibre dance training, academic instruction and residential care for students in grades 6 to 12, and post-secondary students. The School’s progressive curriculum, with its emphasis on the physical and emotional well-being of students, is designed to take students from the earliest stages of intensive training through to pursuing careers on the world stage. This approach has put NBS at the international forefront of dance training.
 
Academic: NBS’ full-time academic program runs from grade 6 through grade 12. Class sizes are small, allowing for enriched learning within the classroom. Although most graduates naturally go on to dance, we ensure that our students are prepared for university and careers beyond dance.
 
Residence: Built in 1911 as a Quaker Meeting House, Currie Hall (as it is now called) was the original site of NBS’ sole-studio school. Now the residence dining hall for students in the Professional Ballet Program, it is steeped in history and tradition, providing a gracious and refined atmosphere. The residence is a combination of new and classic architecture, only a short walk from the dance studios and classrooms. The specially trained residence staff is friendly, caring and committed to providing a comfortable and safe home-away-from home for each student. They respect the special and specific needs of each student and work diligently to ensure they are met.
 


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Create Your Own Choreography

It’s your turn to create a choreography! Put on the many hats that a choreographer wears to put together your very own dance production. Explore the following workbooks for a guided learning experience that enables you to experiment, create and share!
 
Print the appropriate Choreography Workbook for you/your child:  

ages 4-6   ages 6-12   ages 12+


Share your creation with Canada’s National Ballet School!
Email sharingdance@nbs-enb.ca with photos or videos of how you are sharing the joy of dance at home! 


Support Canada's National Ballet School 

If you are able, consider making a donation to support Canada’s National Ballet School. Your support will help more Canadians experience the power of dance today and into the future. 

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NBS' 60th Anniversary Circle

 

More ways to dance

NBS Sharing Dance Choreography

Learn the 2020 NBS Sharing Dance Choreography

The 2020 NBS Sharing Dance choreography is here! Learn this year's choreography by Jera Wolfe and join tens of thousands of Canadians in the nation's largest celebration of the power of dance.

Access the choreography

Resources for Kids

Step-by-step videos, activity plans, and more help support kids' self-expression, collaboration and physical literacy—all in fun and engaging activities that are easy to do at home.

Explore Resources for Kids