Once the National Ballet of Canada shut its doors in March 2020, principal dancer Heather Ogden tried to make her work from home work a little harder. She and her husband, dancer/choreographer Guillaume Côté, each picked up a square of the vinyl flooring they were used to practising on. They cleared a spot in their bedroom for a ballet barre they bought online. They made ridiculously cute videos dancing with (and around) their kids, aged 4 and 6. Still, by the summer, Ogden was so itchy to perform that she found herself on a gravel road in shorts and Keds, starring in the film Lulu for the company’s virtual season. “I remember dropping to my knees in the gravel and thinking, ‘This is going to hurt,’” she says. “But, honestly, I think it shows my dedication and my desperation to dance.”
Now, after 20 months away and a variety of protocols to get dancers safely back into the studio—at one point, they were practising in four-person pods under a sign that read “Get in. Dance. Get out.”—the National Ballet is returning to the stage. “I’m so excited for that togetherness with the company and the audience,” Ogden says. “The performance is when you feel most like an artist.” It feels fitting that the first show back will be Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite’s Angels’ Atlas, a mesmerizing work that depicts the unpredictability and impermanence of human life—and that happened to premiere in Toronto days before lockdown. “It’s always nice to come back to a ballet, and this piece is so meaningful and spiritual,” Ogden says. “I think it’ll be emotional to be back on stage, but I so look forward to it.” ‘Angels’ Atlas’ runs at the National Ballet of Canada from Nov. 11 to 27.