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David Nixon, choreographer


 

(Compiled December, 2001)

 

David Nixon cannot remember a time without dancing as a part of his life. "I have always danced," he said. He is not sure how he knew about dance classes but was always asking his mother for lessons until she finally acquiesced, believing that after a few lessons he would lose interest and stop. Of course, this was not so; he actually grew to love dance more and more. Beginning in his home town of Chatham, Ontario, David took the motley mix of Tap, Ballet, Acrobatic and Highland Dance. There was a time when Nixon almost did voluntarily end his relationship with dance. It came at the time of his graduation from grade school. When he moved into a new school where it was not known that he danced, he was able to enjoy the social life of a 'normal' boy without the stigma of dance. Fate played her hand here in the form of an audition for the National Ballet School of Canada. He was accepted for the Summer Course but, due to family plans to visit England, was unable to attend. However, a further audition with a reticent Betty Oliphant, the school's director, secured him a position at the school for the fall.

The National Ballet School was able to train David in a way that he was not able to do at his hometown school. Up to that point David had loved dance for the fun of it; he now grew to respect dance for its professional demands. He also started to develop an interest in choreography during his stay at 'the National'. He became a good friend with John Alleyne (now director and resident choreographer of Ballet British Columbia in Vancouver), and they became intrigued with reviving a choreographic workshop at the school. One summer Betty Oliphant said that if they organized it, they could hold a workshop, which they did. To everyone's surprise, including David's, he produced an intelligent ballet to two movements of a Bach Brandenburg Concerto.

Before graduating from the National Ballet School, David received a Canada Council Scholarship to support his dance studies abroad. He spent more than three months traveling all over Europe with a fellow classmate. They took dance classes everywhere from all the major teachers, visited museums, saw shows and immersed themselves in whatever events offered themselves. At one point he notes that they found themselves at a Communist Rally with the great choreographer, Maurice Béjart, and 60,000 others in the pouring rain.

Following this wonderfully stimulating trip, David decided that he should return to school for one more year to solidify his training. He would become one of the first men to pass the advanced Checcetti exam in Canada and would also have the opportunity to study with the great Russian, Eugene Valukin, who was to guest teach that summer.

Within a short time of becoming a member of the National Ballet of Canada, David quickly earned opportunities to dance leading roles. In his second year with the company he danced Oberon in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Dream, a coveted role created by Anthony Dowell. That same year David also had the lead role in Harold Lander's Etudes. This promising beginning was arrested for most of his third year in the company due to a serious knee injury that put David out of commission for the majority of the season. He made himself return for the company's tour to Europe after which he remained there to study further.

With his fourth season at the National Ballet, the pace picked up again. He had no fewer than 13 debuts in principal roles, including Prince Siegfried in Erik Bruhn's staging of Swan Lake.

The following year David had the opportunity to take part in the national tour of Alexander Godunov and Friends - not only a great dancing opportunity, but also the time he met Yoko Ichino. Not only were they destined to share their personal lives, but also Yoko exposed David to new ways of approaching ballet and of working with his physique. On his return to the National Ballet David tried to incorporate these new ideas in his daily routine. However, the down periods that he encountered when changing the way he worked were hard to reconcile with the daily activities of a company that expects the best at all times. David elected to take a year off to train with Yoko. Together they went to Europe where they were guest artists with several companies. Unknown to David at the time, Rudolf Nureyev had noted his departure from the National Ballet of Canada and had personally contacted several European companies, recommending David to them. One of those companies was the Deutsche Oper in Berlin.

For the next five years beginning in 1985, Berlin was to be David's permanent home. At the time the ballet company had one of the most extensive repertoires in the world, a perfect place for David to grow as an artist. They not only staged the famous classics but also works by the leading choreographers of the day, many of whom David had the chance to work with personally. During the last two years of this period David also returned to the National Ballet of Canada as a Guest Principal dancer under the direction of Erik Bruhn.

With the death of Erik Bruhn, the subsequent change of directorship of the company and a wish to dance with Yoko Ichino more frequently, David once again left the National Ballet of Canada and became a permanent guest artist of the Bayerisches Staatsballett in Munich where he was Evelyn Hart's partner. Although another wonderful experience, David realized that this move did not allow him much time for his major reason for changing companies, dancing with Yoko.

For the following two years David and Yoko traveled the capitals of the dance world together as guest artists with, among others, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, London City Ballet, The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Australian Ballet and the Komische Oper, Berlin. They also made many trips to Japan to dance, teach, and, for David to choreograph.

After this very fruitful period David had the opportunity to return to the Deutsche Oper in Berlin as a dancer and First Ballet Master. It was from this post that he was recruited to be the Artistic Director of BalletMet Columbus.

David began his interest in choreography at the National Ballet School and continued to create ballets while a member of the National Ballet of Canada. Always a dancer with a gift for the interpretation of roles, David felt that he could fulfill those gifts in the creation of ballets and the passing of information to others. He enjoyed inspiring, and being inspired by, dancers. For the annual choreographic workshop he created an abstract work to the music of Pachelbel and others, inspired by the movement qualities of dancer Mary Jago, and a distilled version of Madam Butterfly for Yoko Ichino.

He continued his work with two pas de deux for himself and Yoko to be performed as a part of their guest appearances together. One was a lyric exploration and the other based on the Italian Renaissance song Lamento di Iole. The latter tells the story of a man who must go off to war and whose wife tries every excuse and range of emotion trying to keep him home.

Dancing took the upper hand for a number of years until, in Berlin, David was once again able to devote time to his choreographic talents. Having seen the great variety of work that was presented in Europe, he believed there was a place for his creations as well. The director of the Deutsche Oper said that he must produce work on his own, so David set about presenting an evening of his choreography at the Hebbel Theatre in Berlin. He became director/ choreographer/ producer and designer for the event, gaining tremendous experience in the process. The success of the evening led to the presentation of a second such evening the following year.

David was honored with an invitation to return to the National Ballet of Canada School in 1994 to create a ballet for the graduating students. That ballet was Sudden Impulse which was hailed by the Toronto critics as the "must see" dance event of the year. David added it to the repertoire of BalletMet in 1996. In addition, David has choreographed Butterfly, A Summer Night's Reflections, Dangerous Liaisons, Beauty and the Beast, Carmen, Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, Dracula, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Nutcracker for BalletMet.

In January 2001 Mr. Nixon announced his departure from BalletMet Columbus, effective August 1, 2001, to assume the directorship of Northern Ballet Theatre in Leeds, England.

A listing of David Nixon's works performed by BalletMet Columbus, followed by the date of their premiere.

 

 Beauty and the Beast  Apr 24 1997
 Butterfly  Sep 26 1996
 Carmen  Oct 23 1997
 Dangerous Liaisons  May 02 1996
 Dracula  Oct 28 1999
 Gershwin Dances  Aug 13 1999
 A Midsummer Night's Dream  Feb 11 2000
 The Nutcracker  Nov 29 1995
 The Nutcracker  Dec 08 2001
 Mozart  Jul 30 1999
 Romeo and Juliet  Apr 23 1998
 Swan Lake  Oct 01 1998
 Sudden Impulse  Sep 19 1995
 A Summer Night's Reflection  May 04 1995

 

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