International

What’s in a Contemporary Dancer’s Bag? With the National Dance Company Wales

People often look up to big name singers, athletes, and movie stars, but for every young aspiring dancer out there, it’s a different story. Looking up to professional dancers, renowned choreographers, and dancing legends, these are our idols. Besides our interest in a professional dancer’s training routine and performances, we’re also curious about the little things, like a professional dancer’s favourite warm-up tune, or even what’s inside a dancer’s bag!

Unzipping our most burning questions for the dancer-on-the-go, Hong Kong Dance Moms (HKDM) sat down with three of the company dancers from the National Dance Company Wales while they were on tour in Hong Kong as part of ArtisTree Selects: Moving Pieces. Sporting our exclusive HKDM dance bags, dancers Cyril Durand-Gasselin, Marine Tournet and Julia Rieder gave us an inside look into their dance bags, sharing their invaluable rehearsal, performance and preparation tips! 


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Cyril Durand-Gasselin

Greeting us with a warm and friendly smile was Cyril Durand-Gasselin, who has been a full-time dancer with the company since 2017. Having recently performed in the National Dance Company Wales’ Double-Bill Performance in Hong Kong, Cyril moves with flawless precision and a presence that can fill an entire stage. From discussing his own supplemental dance training to advocating hydration, Cyril gave us some insightful tips.

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What do you put in your dance bag for a rehearsal? And for a performance?

C.DG.: “For rehearsal, of course my dance clothes, just because I like to wear city clothes when I’m outside. I have my bottle of water, it’s really important. I have knee pads, it’s not the protective ones. I mean I could have this, but it’s in case during the day you have a weak knee, it can be really useful to use it.

I have a notebook that’s really important in the creative process, or during rehearsal, if I need to take notes or just find ideas for myself. I have two tennis balls in socks for massaging. I also have a cereal bar, because of course during the day you need some time to get energy back if you’re feeling a bit tired. 

Cyril Bag

I have my headphones which is useful if you just want to have a moment for yourself to listen to music without disturbing anyone. Or if during a rehearsal, I’m asked to work on something on my own, I’ll use my headphones on the side to work on my section in the piece of choreography. I have my glasses, but I wear contact lens because it’s really hard to dance with glasses. There is some paracetamol in case I have a headache, though I just need to make sure that I don’t take it before I go and dance, because when you have pain in your body it’s better to feel it so that you don’t get injured more. For performance, I have my jock strap and my makeup, and that’s the only difference”.

Cyril

What’s the one item in your bag that you could not live without, and why?

C.DG.: “It’s my bottle of water, because I think it’s really important. You always need to drink water”. 

What’s your best packing hack for when you are travelling on tour?

C.DG.: “I wouldn’t say I have a specific one, I just fold my clothes correctly and I try to put my pants on the side, and all the t-shirts on the other side. And in the center, all my makeup and toiletries. And because I like to do yoga, I’ll put my yoga mat in there which is quite hard to fit, but when placed lengthwise it works!”

Cyril interview

What advice do you have for those who want to be a professional dancer?

C.DG.: “My best advice would be to take care of your body, because this is the tool you’ll use all your life if you want to be a dancer. So it’s really important to eat healthy and drink a lot of water. But also to think physically about balancing the body. For example, when doing a certain choreographic movement, most of the time you won’t do right and left. So you end up working one side of the body more than the other. Before or after class, stretch or do some strengthening to get the body balanced. I’m using yoga for example, so I think yoga is a really nice tool to do that and to centre and balance the body”.


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Marine Tournet

A freelance dancer and former full-time dancer with the company, Marine Tournet’s humble, kind and optimistic comportment was absolutely contagious! Creating disjunct movements with her body, Marine’s movement style has an utterly unique and inspirational flair. Highlighting the importance of having a healthy and positive mind in dance, Marine gave us her personal life mantras that have taken her far in her dance career.

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What do you put in your dance bag for a rehearsal? And for a performance?

M.T.: “For rehearsal, I always have deodorant because it’s important. Also in the U.K., it’s always important to have an umbrella and tissues as well. I always take this little towel to wipe up the sweat after class or during rehearsal. I have this pouch of medicine, and tiger balm incase I injure myself or if I am sore. This is a foot roller to massage the feet either before or after rehearsal. This is a theraband to stretch or exercise the legs, depending on what you need. I have an extra t-shirt in case I’m too sweaty and need to change, and also a pair of shorts and a pair of trousers. Depending on the work we do, I need to change sometimes. This is a foam roller, usually I just leave it in the company studio, so I don’t need to bring it everyday. But it’s really nice to roll over the muscles, the legs and the back. 

And I always have my ipod with me, I don’t actually use it when we rehearse like some people do to warm-up. I actually use it more for auditions to focus on myself and be in my bubble and centre. But for a normal warm-up in the company, I don’t really use it. 

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I always have my water bottle, it’s very important. For a performance, the only difference would be bringing my makeup and hair kit. I also bring my warm-up shoes to wear between rehearsals and the show, and in the evening I will wear them to keep my feet warm”.

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What’s the one item in your bag that you could not live without, and why?

M.T.: “I think it would be my hairbands, because it would be a problem if I didn’t have any!”


What’s your best packing hack for when you are travelling on tour?

M.T.: “I would like to have one, because I don’t have one. I just squish everything into my luggage and sit on it”.

Marine’s Take Care Tip: To help dancers with any pain or soreness, Marine recommends macadamia oil mixed with a few drops of wintergreen essential oil.

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What advice do you have for those who want to be a professional dancer?

M.T.: “To always be positive. Even when you go through a hard time, especially if you get injured, you can get depressed very easily. Especially if you see your friends who keep dancing, and you come to class to watch them on the side. It can be a very hard time, but just know that it is going to go away soon and you’ll recover. And you can learn a lot through watching as well, so it’s important to watch. 

Be a sponge. Whenever the teacher gives a correction, even if it’s not for you, just always take it for yourself as if it was for you, because that’s how you learn. Just keep watching everyone, and taking everyone’s corrections

Watch videos! I spent my life watching videos on Youtube when I was younger and wanted to be a dancer. I watched a lot of ballet videos, because I wanted to be a ballet dancer. I just watched a lot of things and went to see shows, to learn about the dance world outside; all the choreographers, all the styles, it’s very important to know and learn about everything. 

Be curious, even if it’s not dance related, it will always be beneficial to maybe learn about acting or martial arts or music… or anything! You will find out later that it can relate to dance in a way that you didn’t know before. So stay curious and learn! Be generous, be yourself and be honest with yourself and with the people around you. The only competition is with yourself, it’s not with the others. Believe in yourself, and trust your body and its knowledge. Trust your body, because it knows if you can keep pushing or not. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and work with them intelligently”.


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Julia Rieder

Having danced full-time with NDCWales for the last two years, Julia Rieder creates a serene atmosphere with her poise, maturity, and sweet smile. Moving fluidly as though submerged in water, Julia dances with such tranquility, clarity and flow. Creating a checklist of things to bring in our dance bag may be one thing, but Julia sheds light on the most important thing to bring to rehearsal, an open mind and body.

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What do you put in your dance bag for a rehearsal? And for a performance?

J.R.: “In my dance bag, I’ll never go to class without my water bottle. A reusable one, not plastic. I have tennis balls for massage. I have some tiger balm to heat the muscles. And for class, I bring a little snack for breaks. And then the essentials, some tissue, some plasters. I have a little pocket where I put all the urgent stuff. Some hair pins, phone, headphones, charger, and knee pads just in case we do lots of floorwork”.

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What’s the one item in your bag that you could not live without, and why?

J.R.: “I’d probably say water or a snack. Just because you couldn’t go even half a day without fuel”.


What’s your best packing hack for when you are travelling on tour?

J.R.: “I usually roll my clothes to make more space in my luggage. It’s quite basic, just monitor the amount of dance clothes you need for class as well as some change of clothes because you will sweat a lot. But the usual things, and some city clothes as well just in case we visit some sites and do not want to look too casual”.

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What advice do you have for those who want to be a professional dancer?

J.R.: “It’s lots of hard work, but don’t overthink too much because a lot can happen by luck. It takes some luck to do everything you wish for. 

Just enjoy the ride, because there are so many occasions to connect with people and great audiences as well. Enjoy every night, and take what’s there for you as if it were the last time. 

It makes your day full. And staying open and balanced”.

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So now that the NDCWales has created the ultimate checklist for your next dance bag packing mission, be sure to pass on the torch and let the next generation of dancers know about your own personal life hacks in dance! Until next time, that’s a zip!

A Special Thanks to the National Dance Company Wales and ArtisTree!

The Invisible and Visible

A Dance Performance Review on ArtisTree Selects: Moving Pieces - National Dance Company Wales (Double-Bill Performance)

Returning to the stage for yet another year of mesmerizing dance performances at Hong Kong’s ArtisTree, was the National Dance Company Wales. Pulling out all the stops, they performed a double-bill featuring two energetically packed contemporary dance pieces titled, Tundra and Revellers’ Mass. These two performances contrasted in choreographic style, taste and themes, but they both explored concepts of ritual and culture.

 

Tundra

With microscopic mechanical movements that transformed into expansively rippling aftershocks, choreographer Macros Morau’s choreography displayed a sublime unworldliness with glimpses of recognizable symbols.  

Reconfiguring elements of Russian folk dance, Tundra transports us to a space and time that marries the past with the future. The electric-hued costumes designed by Angharad Matthews were stunning, as they featured geometric patterns that weaved a labyrinth of its own. As the eight dancers joined their limbs together, they abandoned their singularity to create mass movements that reflected the patterns in their costumes; a cycle of interweaving, breaking the pattern, and starting anew.

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The set and lighting designed by Joseff Fletcher was clean, simple and effective. As the stage floor resembled a thin sheet of ice, the lights created different climates from stark and cold to warm and inviting.

The music was eerie yet soothing, creating moments of ease and arrest. The patchwork of this puzzle pieced performance was seamlessly sewn, as the intricate patterns of choreography, music, costume and design interweaved from one to the next, creating a network of innovative craftsmanship.

 

Revellers’ Mass

Transcending through a spectrum of rituals, Revellers’ Mass explores various levels of volume on the human condition. Inspired by historic paintings, choreographer Caroline Finn torques and deconstructs common gestures and mannerisms into explosively wild and animalistic movements.

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The virtuous costumes designed by Gabriella Slade look deceivingly harmless at first sight, but as the story unfolds, the inseams reveal a chaotic world. The set and lighting designed by Joseff Fletcher set the tone for each level of volume explored. From a dark and moody lit stage, to a bright and bare theatre, the designs snapped us in and out of reality.

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From breaking down the body to deconstructing different characters, Revellers’ Mass makes visible what once was invisible.

National Dance Company Wales still has two more performances at Hong Kong’s ArtisTree in Quarry Bay, so don’t miss out! Click here for more details.

Photo Credits: Photos by Rhys Cozens. Courtesy of National Dance Company Wales 

 

The Big Leap: Studying Dance Abroad

Dance itself is an adventure, so it’s only natural that as dancers we like to challenge ourselves! It starts by challenging yourself to jump higher, to do more pirouettes, deepen your stretches, or to take on a new role in a dance number. The list goes on, and as you accomplish each milestone, you find yourself in search of something more challenging or something deeper. And maybe, just maybe it’s stepping outside your borders and challenging yourself to learn dance in an entirely new country, with new people, teachers, cultures and languages. Here’s our tips on the big leap!

 

Where to go?

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No matter where you decide to go, only you can gage your level of comfortability or willingness to take risks. So it’s great to challenge yourself by studying abroad, but you also don’t want to make it an impossible dream. Here are some questions to consider:


  • Are you fluent in the country’s official language?

If not, it’s important to find out the language in which courses are taught and what type of language qualifications are required to study there. But it could be a great opportunity for learning a new language or brushing up on some rusty language skills.


  • What area of dance would you like to study?

Speak to any graduate in the workforce today, and they will likely tell you that their current occupation is not what they actually majored in. However, many graduates can attest to the fact that they have applied many useful skills and knowledge attained from their past studies.

There are four major areas of study in Dance; Performance, Dance Education, Dance Science, and Dance Studies. The programs offered are usually dependent on the current market in dance and the arts within that country or region. So make sure to do your research on the schools that offer the programs you are interested in. All of these can lead to some great career opportunities in the arts!

 

  • What’s the day to day life like when you are studying in the program?

Work your way through the grapevine and speak with some graduates or current students of the school you are interested in. Or better yet, take a campus tour if it’s offered!

 

Time is of the Essence

Depending on how long you would like to study abroad, there are various study paths you can explore.

Short and Sweet

If you just want a bit of a taste of what it’s like to study dance in a different city, then make a trip of it! During a long holiday period, join a 1-4 week dance intensive abroad! Dance intensives are usually offered during major holiday periods in that country. So search up Winter, Summer, Spring Break, or even Chinese New Year dance intensives that might be offered overseas.

The Honorary Local

Exchange programs are an excellent way to dive into a new city, culture, and dance learning environment without making the commitment of a lifetime (maybe a bit melodramatic, as we all know that nothing in dance is forever). When considering dance at a school in your home country, look into the types of exchange programs they offer. Part of the beauty of exchange programs is simpler logistics, such as visas and accommodation arrangements, which can be easily arranged because of the length of the programs which are generally one semester long (3-4 months). However, not just anyone can join an exchange program, there are usually grade requirements, certain credits that must be met, and it can cost a pretty penny. But doing your research and working some extra shifts in the summer can totally be worth this experience of a lifetime!

 

I Pledge My Allegiance to The Stage

Wherever the stage goes, I go. Sound familiar? If you ever dreamed of running away with the circus, you might just have what it takes to make the big leap and study dance full-time in another country.

For those who choose to study abroad in a full-time dance program, it is not only a matter of studying overseas, but following your dream in dance…which also happens being a million miles away. With the choice of following your dream, making your own mark, immersing yourself into a new culture and discovering a whole new world, comes the sacrifice of leaving behind your friends and family back home only to visit them one or maybe three times a year. Sometimes it helps to make a list of pros and cons, and more often than not you just gotta go with your gut and what your heart is telling you. It is a big commitment, but it’s not forever. Most importantly, you’ll never regret it. Because hey, at the end of the day, we’re studying dance and pursuing a career that challenges us to be creative, passionate and expressive. What a way to live!

 

The Nitty-Gritty

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Before you take the big leap, make sure to consider these last few questions. Yeah, they may not be all that fun, but they are necessary.

 

  • How do you apply for a student visa in that country?

  • How much is tuition, boarding/rent, and the general cost of living?

  • Will you need to work, and if so can you get a working visa?

  • Does the school offer scholarships?

 

It’s a lot of work to take the big leap and study dance abroad. But nothing ever stopped a dancer from learning a grand jeté or learning the meaning of “the show must go on”! So savor every moment, work hard, and pursue your dreams to the fullest!



Photo Credits: Main Photo by The Dancewear Centre , Content Photos by Luis Fernandes, rawpixel.com, and Beto Franklin from Pexels



Strings, Simplicity & Sheer Movement - A Dance Review on "Lullaby"

A Dance Performance Review on ArTISTREE SELECTS: Panta Rei Danseteater’s Lullaby

A lullaby suggests song, innocence, youth and protection. Directly addressed in the title Lullaby, Panta Rei Danseteater’s dance production invokes subtle undertones of these images and meanings to shed light on today’s political climate around the world. As part of ArtisTree’s Moving Pieces dance season,  Panta Rei Danseteater (Oslo, Norway) performed a double-bill dance production entitled Lullaby. Featuring live musical accompaniment and three virtuosically powerful male dancers, Lullaby was an overwhelming performance experience that traversed a spectrum of emotions.  

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Part 1

Preluding with a live string duo, an atmosphere of peace and tranquility was immediately established. As the music performed by Gustavo Tavares and Sverre Indris Joner continued to build, the jovial and playful movements of the three male dancers, Matias Rønningen, Johnny Autin, and Robert Guy escalated into forceful and impactful movements that formed hostilely aggressive relationships amongst the dancers. Choreographed by Anne Holck Ekenes and Pia Holden, this piece displayed a contrast between the play of games and the play of power. The simple act of mirroring movement was innovatively explored, as one dancer moved  as a soloist but in synchronisation with another dancer who was dancing in a duo. The play on cause and effect was so compelling. Suggesting that one can be affected by tensions without being physically touched.

The music composed by Sverre Indris Joner was filled with such care and detail, creating moments in which the melodies of universal lullabies could be faintly heard under the starkly melancholic score. The basic wooden school chairs were more than just props, as they signified territories, barricades, rest, unity and division. There was strength in the use of relatable symbols, from the costumes that were casual and recognisable, to the gestures that were clearly identifiable. The first part of Lullaby explored dark and intense themes that kept us locked on the edge of our seats . 

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Part 2

Returning to their instruments after changing into a suit and bowtie, a new beginning was set. The stage set itself was changed, as the wooden school chairs were replaced with 6 white toddler chairs with cute cartoon silhouettes of animals engraved into the middle struts of the backrest. Opening with an upbeat and jazzy music score, a spotlight hovered over one of the male dancers who was all suited up in black with a dapper smirk on his face. The contemporary dance movements of the three males were so fluid, dynamic and dazzling that they seemed to mimic qualities similar to a magician. Playing with the toddler chairs as though playing musical chairs, the second part of Lullaby showcased the juvenile lightheartedness of this seven letter word. The humorous use of language and numbers was ingeniously used by choreographer Hélène Blackburn and dramaturge Kjell Moberg. The use of lighting created this mystical magical mood as lighting designer Joakim Brink strategically placed the timing of the lighting effects in line with the dancer’s movements. In juxtaposition with the first part of the production, tensions were low and spirits were high as the performers banded together to display their humorous wit and vitality. 

Rising to the occasion, Panta Rei Danseteater’s dance production of Lullaby uses various elements of art and theatre to take its audience on an emotional journey. Challenging us all to think critically and playfully about the world we live in.

WIN a chance to see one of the amazing dance performances during ArtisTree’s dance season of Moving Pieces! Click here for more details.

Photo Credits: Courtesy of ArtisTree and Panta Rei Danseteater. Photos by: Trine Sirnes

Dance Costumes Made to Wow!

Bring that va-va-voom and wow factor to the stage, because we’re featuring some of the most amazing dance costumes from past professional dance productions. Get inspired and add a bit of pizzazz to your next casual Friday outfit!

 

Puttin’ On The Ritz with all that Glitz

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Put on your chicest pair of sunglasses before you hit the theatre, because this costume glimmers, glares and sparkles! First staged by The Royal Ballet, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a spectacular ballet choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. The feet of eight dancers on pointe appear In the iconic scene where the caterpillar enters the stage. As if the synchronised movements of the ballerinas weren’t spectacular enough, they each wore a pair of royal blue pointe shoes embellished with crystals. The entire performance features the creative ingenuity of Bob Crowley’s costume designs. Besides the beautiful dancing and choreography that goes into a production, it’s important to recognise the role of the many artistic elements that bring this vision to life.

 

Borrowing from the Past

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Fashion is all about finding a balance between the past, present and future. When costume designers create innovative costumes for a dance production, they tend to borrow from the past and project the future. Hong Kong Dance Company’s production of Red Poppies featured a wealth of culture, heritage, and innovative designs. Borrowing elements of traditional Tibetan garments, Cui Binghua’s costumes incorporate intriguing designs while showcasing the beauty of Liu Lingli’s choreography. Chinese Dance costumes are known to marry fashion with function, creating a relationship in which the movement and the garments complement one another.

 

The Bigger, The Better

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“After all imagination is a beautiful thing” – Zora Neale Hurston

Reminding us where our creativity ignites, Alexei Ratmansky’s ballet Whipped Cream is all about releasing your wildest dreams. Performed by The American Ballet Theatre, this playful storyline is big and bold. The costumes designed by Mark Ryden are inspired by our favourite childhood candies, treats and pastries. Make sure to watch this ballet on a full stomach, or you’ll be growling for the next hour and a half.

 

‘Werk’ that Quirk

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Turning Hong Kong’s extreme working culture, into a technicolor ‘werking’ culture is Hong Kong Ballet’s 40th Anniversary ad campaign. It’s not easy to pull off these neon colours, let alone doing it in ballet tights and leotards. But Hong Kong Ballet brings out the fun and quirky characteristics of Hong Kong, while staying true to the strength, power and beauty of ballet.

 

Light it up!

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Kwok’s Kung Fu & Dragon Lion Dance Team is transforming tradition by lighting up local Hong Kong festivities with an LED Lion Dance. As the leader of the dance troupe, Andy Kwok is all about keeping up with the times while still honouring heritage and tradtion. The LED Lion Dance features lights on the costume that are coordinated to the rhythm of the music. These lions know how to break it down on the dance floor with some hip hop, and they can literally light up any party!

A dash of Pumpkin Spice

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Cinderella is notoriously known for her glass slipper and pumpkin carriage, two things that no one in their right mind would ever bring to a ball (though I’m sure someone from the Met Gala could prove me wrong). Nevertheless, Cinderella is a fairytale…which means that anything goes! James Kudelka’s ballet production of Cinderella performed by The National Ballet of Canada was filled with imaginatively fantastical costumes. David Boechler’s costume designs featured the classical elements of ballet, whilst adding light-hearted humour to this ‘all too serious’ art form. The mascot-like pumpkin heads that the male dancers wore during the waltz scene was just the right amount of pumpkin spice!

Thou Costume is Blazing

To dance or not to dance, that is the question. To dance, obviously! Crystal Pite’s contemporary choreographic work, The Tempest Replica is based on motifs of Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest. Performed by Kidd Pivot, these dancers are transformed into unworldly beings by Nancy Bryant’s brilliant costumes. These designs are no basic plain white T-shirts, the details are in the seams from head to toe.

Fashion is not exclusive to the runway or red carpets, it’s everywhere we go, but it is also an important part of dance. So next time you catch a dance performance, pay attention to the other artistic elements of the performance and see what you discover!


Photo Credits: 1. Photo by Dean Alexander, Courtesy of Hong Kong Ballet | 2. Photo by Johan Persson, Courtesy of The Royal Ballet © ROH / Johan Persson 2013 | 3. Photo by Crystal Kwok, Courtesy of Hong Kong Dance Company | 4. Photo by Gene Schiavone, Courtesy of American Ballet Theatre | 5. Photo by Dean Alexander, Courtesy of Hong Kong Ballet | 6. Photo by Kyle Ford | 7. Photo by Bruce Zinger, Courtesy of The National Ballet of Canada | 8. Photo by Jörg Baumann, Courtesy of Kidd Pivot