Guillaume Côté will leave the National Ballet of Canada at the end of the season

(Toronto) Guillaume Côté doesn’t really want to leave the National Ballet of Canada, but after a quarter of a century with the company, the 42-year-old principal dancer says it’s time.

Reflecting on his pain, the competition, the constant search for perfection, he says he wouldn’t mind slowing down.

“The National Ballet of Canada, where it’s highly competitive and world-class, is not a place where you can grow old,” he said by telephone, as he prepared for the company announced that the next season would be its last.

“We have to leave room for the new. »

The National Ballet of Canada announced Côté’s imminent retirement on Wednesday by unveiling its program for the 2024-2025 season, part of which will be devoted to the departure of one of its most prominent dancer-choreographers.

Côté trained at the National Ballet School of Canada before joining the ballet company in 1998. He was promoted to principal dancer in 2004 and named choreographic associate in 2013.

A native of Lac-Saint-Jean, Côté began his ballet career at the age of 11, and devoted himself 100% to it, as any successful dancer must do. During his tenure with the company, he said he and a small cohort of peers had survived three generations of dancers who came and went.

Now he agrees to join their ranks.

“Leaving this bubble is a process and a bit of a mourning,” he testified.

In a way, he’s happy to leave. He won’t miss the constant competition, he said, or the fear of injury. He felt “left out” by the company when he tore his ACL on opening night of Nutcracker in 2014. His recovery took more than a year.

“But it’s our passion, and it’s what we love to do, and I was able to pursue it,” he said.

Perhaps fittingly, given his long career, his farewell will span the entire season.

The fall mixed program will open with his 2014 solo piece Body of Workand in spring 2025 there will be a mixed program of Canadian works entitled Farewell: A Celebration of Guillaume Côté.

He will understand Into the fadea multidisciplinary solo piece that Côté is creating with filmmaker and longtime collaborator Ben Shirinian, two new works by Ethan Colangelo and Jennifer Archibald, as well as Bolero next to.

Guillaume Côté said he was happy to share his farewell scene with these “emerging” choreographers.

“If people come to see my retirement […] maybe they will also have the opportunity to see new blood,” he stressed.

This corresponds to what Côté considers his mission. Throughout his career, he says he has been committed to advancing the art form, not only as a dancer, but also as a choreographer.

“I fell in love with choreography and the production side at a very young age,” he said.

“I love creating dance shows, dance performances and dance experiences, as a creator of choreography, but also as a producer. »

Since 2014, he has been artistic director of the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur du Québec, the largest summer dance festival in the country. In 2018, he and filmmaker Robert Lepage created Frame by Frame, a critically acclaimed ballet inspired by the life and work of filmmaker Norman McLaren. And in 2021, he created his own company, called Côté Danse, to develop his own works.

“It wasn’t really preparation for retirement,” he explained. It was more of a secondary passion. »

His latest project in collaboration with Lepage, a wordless interpretation of Hamlet by Shakespeare, is scheduled to debut at Toronto’s Elgin Theater in April.

But when it comes to sharing his plans after retirement, Côté remains evasive.

“I really want to live my career at the National Ballet to the fullest,” he stressed. I want to go all the way, fully focused. »

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