Sep 8, 2023

Six dance performances to see this fall

From Bharata Natyam to ballet, a new dance season begins this fall across Canada 

A photo of dancer Shilpa Shankar dancing on stage. Their left leg is outstretched with a flexed foot and their right hand is rested on the back of their head as they look to their left.

Shilpa Shankar. Photo by Chris Randle.

Apple picking, pumpkin spice lattes, and Halloween — there is so much to look forward to in fall on top of watching the leaves change. The same can be said for the art and culture circuit which includes the beginning of a new season for dance companies across Canada.  

From ballet on the East Coast to Bharata Natyam on the West Coast, Canada’s rich dance scene has something for everyone. Check out six highlights of the 2023/2024 dance season below.  

1. Classical Indian Dances in Focus  —  Vancouver, British Columbia  

An image of dancer Fiana Kawane in a red dress posing in front of an antique looking building, looking to her left with her arms held out to her right

Fiana Kawane by Devansh Jhaveri in Ahmedabad

An image of dancer Shilpa Shankar dancing on stage, her legs slightly bent causing her skirt to fan out. She looks to her right holding her hands out in that direction as well

Shilpa Shankar. Photo by Chris Randle 

Dancer Fiana Kawane dancing on stage. She sits on the floor looking to their left, their hands are folded and posing near their chest.

Fiana Kawane. Photo courtesy Dance Centre.

Kicking off the 2023/2024 season of The Dance Center’s Discover Dance! Series, Classical Indian Dances in Focus brings two classical Indian dance styles into conversation: Kathak, a North Indian classical dance form incorporating pirouettes, lyrical movements, and footwork, and Bharata Natyam, a South Indian dance style that expresses religious themes and spiritual ideas. Presenting these contrasting dance styles on the same stage, Kathak dancer Fiana Kawane and Bharata Natyam dancer Shilpa Shankar highlight the complexity, range, and musicality of classical Indian dance styles. The performance will be followed by a post-show artist talkback. Catch this performance at Vancouver’s Scotiabank Dance Centre on Thursday, September 28. Also, keep an eye out for the next Discover Dance! performance in November, which is dedicated to flamenco dance. Grab tickets for Classical Indian Dances in Focus here.  

2. Red Sky at Night — Toronto, Ontario 

An image of performers from Red Sky Performance. 5 dancers are on their knees in a diamond formation, the other dancers touching the back of the dancer in the front

Cast of Miigis. Photo by Ridley Vaughn

Red Sky at Night is an evening of Indigenous dance, theatre, live music, and spoken word happening November 3 to 5. This dance performance is produced by Red Sky Performance, an Indigenous-led performance company dedicated to contemporary Indigenous performances. Created in 2000 by Sandra Laronde (Misko Kizhigoo Migizii Kwe), Red Sky Performance explores the relationship between movement, live music, theatricality, and image, bringing together Indigenous cultures from around the world.  

Held at Canadian Stage’s Berkley Street Theatre in Downtown Toronto, Red Sky at Night will feature dance performances by Red Sky Performance; hip-hop group Reverb Dance Crew; and the Buffalo Twins Kirby and Kehew Buffalo, Prairie Dancers from Samson Cree Nation in Alberta. There will also be performances from poet Shane Koyczan and Juno Award-winning musical trio The Bearhead Sisters. Grab tickets here.

3. Emma Bovary and Passion — Toronto, Ontario  

Dancer Hannah Galway in Emma Bovary. The image superimposes Hannah looking in multiple directions

Hannah Galway in Emma Bovary. Photo by Karolina Kuras. Courtesy of The National Ballet of Canada. 

This fall the National Ballet is opening its 2023/2024 season with the world premiere of Emma Bovary, a ballet based on Gustave Flaubert’s 19th-century novel Madame Bovary. Described as a “psychological exploration,” of the novel’s protagonist Emma Bovary, this performance marks a first-ever partnership with award-winning director, choreographer, and dancer Helen Pickett. Rather than tell the plot of Madame Bovary through dance, this narrative ballet dives into the complex psychology of Emma Bovary and her disconnection from reality which ultimately leads to her demise. Emma Bovary features an original score commissioned from Peter Salem, who has created award-winning music for the British TV series Call the Midwife.  

Alongside Emma Bovary, the National Ballet is also performing Passion in honour of Principal Dancer Piotr Stanczyk, who is retiring from this position after 25 years. Premiering in Canada, Passion is a love story evoking complex relationships of passion, choreographed to mirror Ludwig van Beethoven’s Concerto for Piano in D, Op. 61a. Performances of Emma Bovary and Passion run November 11 to 18. Grab tickets here.

If you're unable to catch Emma Bovary in Toronto this fall, you can also see it when the National Ballet performs a double-bill at Ottawa's National Arts Centre from February 1 to 3. 

 4. Pioneers — Ottawa, Ontario

Two dancers from Ballet Black dancing together on stage. One dancer in a black dress leans her head on the shoulder of a dancer in a white dress shirt behind her

Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black in Nina: By Whatever Means, choreographed by Mthuthuzeli November. Dancers: Alexander Fadayiro & Isabela Coracy. Photography by Bill Cooper 

Two dancers from Ballet Black dancing together on stage. One dancer in a suit dips the other dancer in an ornate dress and fur coat

Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black in Nina: By Whatever Means.  Photography by Bill Cooper 


five dancers in a triangle formation posing in pointe shoes with their right foot bent upwards behind them, their arms up in the air with their hands bent to their right. Their heads are slight turned to the right. They are dressed in vintage looking outfits.

Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black (L-R) Helga Paris Morales, Sayaka Ichikawa, Isabela Coracy, Rosanna Lindsey & Taraja Hudson. Photographed by Nick Guttridge.


Travelling all the way from the UK, Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black is making its North American Debut at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre. Ballet Black is a professional ballet company that celebrates dancers of Black and Asian descent. On October 3 and 4, Ballet Black will be presenting the double bill Pioneers, dedicated to the lives and ideas of two notable 20th-century women. In Then and Now, choreographed by William Tuckett, dancers bring the words of American poet Adrienne Rich to life. Choreographed by South African dancer Mthuthuzeli November, Nina: By Whatever Means, is a love letter to singer, songwriter, and activist Nina Simone. Pioneers is a celebration and homage to Rich and Simone’s artistic talents and unwavering commitment to social justice. Grab tickets here.

5. Essence — Montréal, Québec  

An image of a dancer mid air on stage with a background of dancers in various poses

Les Chambres des Jacques. Choreography: Aszure Barton. Costumes: Rémi van Bochove  Photo: Sasha Onyshchenko

An image of dancers on stage, facing the right. One dancer faces the audience, leaning their head on the torso of the other dancer

Les Chambres des Jacques. Choreography: Aszure Barton. Costumes: Rémi van Bochove  Photo: Sasha Onyshchenko

Two dancers on stage in all black facing each other, their hands are up and one dancer leans backwards while the other dancer leans towards them

We Can’t Forget About What’s His Name. Choreography: Ausia Jones. Costumes: Anne-Marie Veevaete. Photo: Sasha Onyshchenko

Two dancers on stage backlight. One dancers holds the other dancer by their back in the air.

Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue. Choreography: Crystal Pite. Costumes: Linda Chow. Photo: Sasha Onyshchenko.

Two dancers on stage, one dancer sits on the floor with his head looking downwards. The other dancer holds his outstretched hand, walking forward

Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue. Choreography: Crystal Pite. Costumes: Linda Chow. Photo: Sasha Onyshchenko

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Ballets Jazz Montréal is performing Essence, an a triple-bill that both pays homage to the company's roots, and expresses artistic director Alexandra Damiani’s new artistic vision for the company. Described as "a balance between the company’s DNA and the evolution of its mission into the next half-century," Essence features Aszure Barton’s Les Chambres des Jacques and Crystal Pite’s Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue, as well as a new original piece We Can’t Forget About What’s His Name, by Ballets Jazz Montréal dancer Ausia Jones who is known for movement grounded in groove and counterpoint. Essence runs from September 27 to 30 at the . Grab tickets here.

6. Pisuwin: A Wolastoquiyik Story — Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick  

Going on their Atlantic Tour this fall, Pisuwin is a Wolastoq story-ballet produced by the Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada. The Wolastoqiyik are Indigenous to the Saint John River in New Brunswick as well as the St.Lawrence River in Quebec. Based on a Wolastoq tale, this ballet reflects on the state of dis-ease in the world, illuminating a path to wholeness and rebalance. The ballet juxtaposes electronic sound and industrial landscapes with Wolastoq visual motifs of the spiritual and natural world. Pisuwin urges viewers to confront greed and alienation in the hope of inspiring community, connection and wholeness.  

Pisuwin was created by multi-disciplinary artist Nipahtuwet Naka Wespahtuwet (Possesom) Paul (Wolastoqiyik, Sitansisk First Nation) and director and choreographer Igor Dobrovolskiy. The ballet also features the compositions of Juno-award-winning composer Jeremy Dutcher (Wolastoqiyik, Neqotkuk First Nation). The Atlantic Tour runs from October 4 to November 28. Grab tickets here.

Read Foyer

Subscribe to our newsletter for art and culture stories delivered to your inbox.