Choreographer Q+A // Gioconda Barbuto

Montreal choreographer Gioconda Barbuto returns to create a new company commission for Ballet BC after her success with TOUCH in 2011 for Ballet BC’s 25th Anniversary program.

Barbuto’s work reflects her personal characteristics as a dancer, specifically explosive physicality and subtle intelligence endowed with a fine sense of wit and theatricality. Formerly a soloist with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Barbuto has performed works by George Balanchine, Nacho Duato, Jiri Kylian, James Kudelka, Hans van Manen, Mark Morris, Ginette Laurin, José Limon and Ohad Naharin, among others.

In 1998, she joined Netherlands Dance Theatre III, a company of professional dancers over the age of 40. In 1996, she received the Clifford E. Lee Award for excellence in choreography.

We had a quick chat with Gioconda about her new work for Ballet BC.

Where do you get your inspiration for new work?

It depends on the project but a big part of my inspiration comes from music. It immediately fills me with a landscape of movement ideas. I also connect with a memory bank of images of nature and life itself.

Do you come into the studio with a finished work or do you include the dancers in the process?

I actually prefer not to come into the studio with a finished work. I do a lot of research and go into the studio with a set of strong ideas supported with many inspirations:music, photos, text, scenarios and anything else that will help with building the work. I allow myself to be open to the room and everything that it has to offer.

I am greatly inspired by the artists and the feeling of collaboration. It makes it a lot more fun, alive, real, like a conversation. The artist’s response is necessary in keeping their individualism present in the work. This is very important to me.

Do you have a philosophical approach to your work that you apply in your process or do you respond more to the music you’re working with? Or a combination?

A little bit of both, I love music, I collect a bank of music that inspires me and it’s a big part of my creative process. I also develop a movement workshop with the artists that provides a wide range of tools to research and develop movement from. It can differ depending on the theme of the project. I like diversity so I use whatever it takes, imagery from photos, text, memory, the human condition and more… it’s endless. I see movement in everything, especially in nature… I get excited about this. I share much of this with the artists and hope to provide a creative environment that opens them up to trust so that we can fully interact and have fun.

How long have you been choreographing?

A long time, since I was a little girl. I always made up little dances right on the spot for my family and sometimes I would create little shows. All of this took place before my first ballet class at the age of 9. Professionally, I’ve been choreographing on and off since 1995. I took a little break when I joined Nederlands Dans Theater III but I’m back and loving it.

What other projects are you working on?

I am working on a “One on One” solo project for a graduating student of École Supérieure de Ballet du Québec that will be presented at their yearly performances and also nationally on ARTV.

My recent work for Arts Umbrella Dance Company has just been performed in Europe and will be presented again during their season finale.

I have also been invited to direct and choreograph one of the annual showcases for The National Circus School in Montreal. This is quite a big project featuring the graduating students. I have been preparing and researching for this work throughout the year and will continue on the production full time right after my premiere with Ballet BC.

How would you describe your new piece for UN/A?

My piece for UN/A is a full company work, very physical and fast paced for the most part. The music of Gabriel Prokofiev was hugely inspiring and generated a strong and percussive atmosphere.

While collaborating with the dancers, different themes developed during the creative process, revealing contrasts, opposition, interaction and connections, with all the transactions generating from a true source.

What was it like working with Ballet BC again?

Pure joy! I am so inspired by these dancers and also by Emily Molnar and the whole team that represent this company. There is a creative energy that is very present when you walk into this company that propels a sense of excitement. It feels like something new, coming from history but moving forward.

It was also very exciting to use the whole company and to engage in their distinct personalities. There is a true sense of “physical conversation” that takes place in the work that they responded to and it truly moves me. They inspire me daily.

How do you like working in Vancouver versus other cities you have worked and choreographed in?

I love Vancouver! I love that I can be so close to nature while being so close to the city. It is a perfect environment for me. I am inspired by Vancouver’s vast and varied beauty.

Watch behind-the-scenes footage with Gioconda and the company artists here.

Tickets for UN/A on sale now at, or by calling 1-855-985-2787.

Gioconda Barbuto. Photo by Michael Slobodian