The National Ballet of Canada Embarks on their First Tour of Russia

By Grace Wells-Smith
  • Sonia Rodriguez outside of The Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow / Photo by Karolina Kuras

The National Ballet of Canada is touring to Russia for the first time in the company’s sixty-seven year history.

“It seems quite shocking in a way,” says principal dancer Sonia Rodriguez, “that we have not been there considering the history of the country and how much they love dance and how it’s so much part of their culture.”

Rodriguez has been a member of the company since 1990 and was promoted to principal dancer in 2000. She says that in the past the company toured more frequently, but cuts after the recession meant larger tours became less frequent.

“One of Karen’s visions in her time of being director,” she says, referring to Artistic Director Karen Kain, “is to try to get the company to be seen internationally again, to showcase her company and her dancers abroad. Not just nationally.”

Two weeks before the tour, the works become a part of the company’s everyday rehearsal schedule. Rodriguez says the dancers are confident, since the work is embedded in their bodies after so many performances. All the same, the energy between the dancers is buzzing. “The dancers are feeling that excitement,” she says, “of something new happening to the company.”

Rodriguez will be performing in Crystal Pite’s Emergence, originally set on the company in 2009. The company has performed the piece numerous times, most recently in Hamburg, Germany during the Hamburg Ballet Days, a two-week festival in July 2018. Over its nearly ten years of life, the piece has become an audience favourite.

Rodriguez speaks highly about working with Pite. She praises her generosity, honesty, openness and the sense of camaraderie she builds between all involved. During rehearsals, she looks at every dancer “with a clean slate” and works with the dancers “a little bit like clay,” says Rodriguez.

Other works included in the tour are Being and Nothingness, choreographed by Guillaume Côté, principal dancer and choreographic associate at The National Ballet of Canada, and Paz de la Jolla, choreographed by Justin Peck, soloist and resident choreographer at the New York City Ballet.

The company will be performing all three works at Diana Vishneva’s Context Festival. The festival was first produced in 2013 and showcases contemporary works from around the world. Past presented companies include Gauthier Dance, Company Wayne McGregor and the Martha Graham Dance Company.

The National Ballet of Canada will perform at the Stanislavsky Theatre in Moscow on October 15 and 16, and at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersbourg on October 19. 

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