After a two-year search, The National Ballet of Canada announced in early July that Hope Muir will take over as artistic director of the company in January 2022.
Originally from Toronto, Muir is currently the artistic director of the Charlotte Ballet in North Carolina. Her appointment comes after Karen Kain announced in October 2019 that she would be retiring from the role after 16 years. Kain officially stepped down June 30 and was named artistic director emerita.
Muir’s appointment closes the historical difference between the number of male and female artistic directors that the company has seen. She is now the fifth female artistic director succeeding Celia Franca (the company’s founder), Valerie Wilder and Lynn Wallis (who were co-artistic directors) and, of course, Kain.
The company’s five male artistic directors were David Haber, Alexander Grant, Erik Bruhn, Reid Anderson and James Kudelka. Although the numbers are now tied, the women have been at the helm for most of that time, specifically 43 of the ballet’s 70 years.
“I understand the importance of legacy, especially of those female pioneers, and am very humbled to have had the opportunity to contribute to those histories both as a dancer and now as an artistic director,” said Muir in an email to The Dance Current.
Muir also brings more than 30 years of international experience to the job. Before her current role at the Charlotte Ballet, she was the assistant artistic director of the Scottish Ballet. She has danced with the English National Ballet, Rambert Dance Company and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. She has also danced the work of choreographers including George Balanchine, Merce Cunningham, Natalia Makarova and Twyla Tharp. But this won’t be her first time working for The National Ballet of Canada.
Her relationship with the company goes back a long way. In 2011, she was a guest teacher and in 2009, she assisted Crystal Pite during the creation of Emergence. She also staged Christopher Bruce’s Rooster in 2008.
She also said she will continue to support the company’s work in equity, diversity and inclusion. In 2020, Kevin Ormsby (who has been involved with the company’s equity, diversity and inclusion work) told The Dance Current that although the company was going through a moment of change, they had been working with Ormsby’s organization, Cultural Pluralism in the Arts Movement Ontario, for two years (at the time of the interview) and “rethinking how to support its increasing number of diverse dancers.”
“Since taking the helm in Charlotte Ballet, I have also been involved in these very important conversations and worked initially in partnership with Dance USA and The Equity Project from 2018,” said Muir. “I am committed to supporting the initiatives that the National Ballet has in place, and to continue to listen and learn in order to provide a safe and more equitable work environment.”
And after the pandemic-related challenges that the company has faced over the past 18 months, she said she is excited to get the company back onstage and “to continue to build on the reputation of excellence with new stories and collaborations.”