My dad was on the volunteer committee of the National Ballet of Canada when I was growing up. This came with considerable perks for his ballet-loving young daughter who got to spend time back stage among the dancers and costumes, the most graceful hustle-bustle. So I was especially excited that Toronto’s Design Exchange was hosting 60 Years of Designing the Ballet, a behind the scenes glimpse of the National Ballet of Canada’s design process from concept to stage.
It’s a beautiful and thoughtfully curated exhibit including many archival pieces that transports you into the imagination of the choreographers, set and costume designers. Their principle function is to allow the dance to shine of course, but never at the cost of setting the stage to enhance storytelling, and always with glamour befitting the ballet. Designers of every piece of the staging puzzle must treat movement as an added dimension, from spring-loaded food trays that need to look as though they may topple, but never do as they are lept across the stage, to the inherent flexibility to the costumes.
The National Ballet of Canada, while celebrating only its 60th anniversary, has boasted some of the biggest names in modern day ballet. Celia Franca, who founded NBC, brought her strong connections with dancers and choreographers in Europe not to mention her formidable reputation, that grew more so during her long tenure with the company. The NBC flourished under Franca, boasting talent like Baryshnikov who joined the company following his dramatic defection after a Toronto performance in 1974 and the imitable Eric Brohn as guest artist and finally artistic director. This exhibition relishes these moments of history while also showcasing the ingenuity and innovation that goes into staging the ballet. It’s glorious as it should be.
To September 2, 2012
234 Bay Street, Toronto, ON
10am – 5pm M-F 12pm – 5pm weekends
All photos by Deirdre Dimitroff