Part of a Seismic Shift in Ballet, Hope Muir Takes on a Major Role

The National Ballet of Canada’s newly named artistic director discusses her vision for diversity, accessibility and transparency in dance.

In early July, an article in The Toronto Star speculated about the pandemic-delayed, but at that point imminent, announcement of a successor to Karen Kain, the treasured former ballerina who had just stepped down as artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada after 16 years.

In the article, Tamara Rojo, Guillaume Coté and Crystal Pite, among others, were suggested as potential replacements. Hope Muir, whose appointment was announced on July 7, was not.

“The fact that they hired me and you have to Google is telling,” said Muir, 50, the current artistic director of the Charlotte Ballet in North Carolina. “I feel like more people like me, who weren’t necessarily huge stars, are going to end up in these roles, with perhaps a somewhat different approach to what ballet can be: more diverse, with more access and transparency about what you are doing.”

Muir’s appointment — she steps into the role on Jan. 1, 2022 — is part of a seismic shift in the ballet world. Over the next two years, Helgi Tomasson at San Francisco Ballet and Kevin McKenzie at American Ballet Theater will both step down; Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui will leave a vacancy at the Royal Ballet of Flanders when he moves to run the Grand Théâtre de Genève; Christian Spuck will be replaced by Cathy Marston at the Zurich Ballet when he takes over the Staatsballett Berlin.

“There is a new generation of artists,” Muir said in a Zoom interview from Charlotte. “You need people who want to have the conversations with them, listen to them and have empathy for their experience and what they want.”

Muir was born in Toronto, where she began to study ballet, but decided to dance professionally only

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