Dance Dialogue: Focus on Cathy Levy

Canada’s National Arts Centre, located in the capital city, Ottawa, is the country’s largestperforming arts centre. It’s also the only arts organization with a full producing programme for Dance, Music, English and French Theatre, and NAC Presents, as well as housing regular rentals, such as Broadway Across Canada. In 2019, the NAC will launch the first ever department of Indigenous Theatre. The NAC bustles nightly with four full performance venues and several free events in its new public spaces. Though each department produces its distinguishing program, there are also unique collaborations developed between disciplines.

“As  Executive Producer for NAC Dance, I shape an annual season of 18-20 dance artists/companies that perform in our three major halls: The 2000-seat Southam Hall; 780-seat Babs Asper Theatre; and 250-seat Azrieli Studio,” says Cathy Levy. “Woven together as different series, we feature a variety of styles and tendencies, from traditional and contemporary ballet, to the more eclectic and provocative contemporary expressions.  We have the rare opportunity to present our ballet series with the live accompaniment of the NAC Orchestra. As well as programming and producing artists, we co-produce a number of new works, host Associate Dance Artists, and create and present ancillary, enhancement and educational activities. We also partner with other presenters around the city for specific events each season.

We program in a particular environment, in that Ottawa has neither a major professional ballet nor a contemporary company. There is a thriving local community, but it is primarily smaller-scale groups and independents. There are excellent training opportunities, but many promising dancers need to seek professional work elsewhere. I often tell visiting artists that the dance milieu takes up only one row of the hall. The rest are truly general public; those who attend for the pure pleasure of experiencing dance performances. And with a population of just under a million, I’m proud that we have a large and loyal audience that is as ready to jump into new adventures as it is thrilled to see the latest Sleeping Beauty!

Our season features artists from Canada, as well as many international countries – we keep our finger on the pulse of what’s unfolding around the world. And our aesthetic reach is broad, limited only to the venues we have and the logistical and financial parameters within which we operate. We’ve had the pleasure of welcoming many U.S. artists, and we work closely with several U.S. presenters who share mutual interests. We’ve built a number of vital connections around the world and continue to invest a lot of time and energy into those channels.

The NAC’s 2,000-seat Southam Hall

I travel often to see performances, though I also rely on video if I already know an artist’s previous pieces. I’m drawn to original, idiosyncratic, well-conceived works that are driven by strong purpose and intent. NAC Dance is committed to supporting artists over the longterm while also regularly introducing new voices.

Artists are always welcome to get in touch with us to let us know about their work. That being said, the input of information is overwhelming, so one should not be discouraged if it takes a while to connect. Having as much lead time as possible to arrange to see work live is certainly an advantage. Thanks to American Dance Abroad for further opportunities to discover U.S. choreographers.”

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