Atlantic Ballet Atlantique Canada

Ballet by the Ocean – Born out of the ashes of a pandemic

In May 2022 Moncton-based Atlantic Ballet Atlantique Canada (ABAC) will celebrate its 20th anniversary. In just two short decades, the only professional ballet company in Atlantic Canada has toured original creations throughout Canada, the U.S. and Europe. The company operates under the leadership of Ukraine-born Artistic Director Igor Dobrovolskiy and Co-Founder and CEO Susan Chalmers-Gauvin. 

“I'm a former ballet dancer. I haven’t done anything else other than dance, teach ballet and choreograph. I travelled around the world for opportunities to create some of my ideas. And then I found a nice but empty Capitol Theatre in Moncton,” explains Igor.

There, he envisioned a home theatre for a ballet company.

“When I met Igor and saw his work, I discovered that he was planning to leave. He said, there's just nothing professional here, there's no opportunity. I said, you know I do research for a living. We had so many award-winning artists in Atlantic Canada but not a single professional dance company in the entire Atlantic region. So I convinced him to stay,” remembers Susan.

Chalmers-Gauvin says that between her Atlantic Canadian pride and Igor's artistic talents, they set out to change the region’s landscape by starting the seventh professional Canadian ballet company.

“ACOA has always been a significant supporter in the development and evolution of our company. Year after year they have helped with new product development, helping us to export or take on projects such as Ballet by the Ocean,” said Susan.

When COVID-19 struck, the entire arts community was flattened, ABAC among them. Making masks for the community from donated fabrics, the wage subsidy helped bridge them financially in the pandemic’s early days. 

Once the dancers were able to return to the studio, the Company looked at their options and came up with Ballet by the Ocean as a fundraiser, on a wetland buffer graced with over 30 bird species facing the Northumberland Straight near Grande Digue, N.B. With Department of Environment approval, they built a stage that sits atop the wetland.

“It's a private setting and we knew that we could control the environment. We were able to safely physically distance everyone. Then, we waited to see if people would actually buy tickets, and they did. We sold out eight shows and kept our staff employed during the pandemic.”

Plans are under way for Ballet by the Ocean 2021 with 18-22 performances between July and September. This year’s event will feature a three-course locally sourced food tasting menu prepared by Chefs Emmanuel Charretier and Gene Cormier.

“The Department of Tourism was very excited that this really is a one of a kind offering that highlights not only our professional company in the standard of excellence that we represent, but also the beautiful landscape that is our home, New Brunswick, all in one package,” said Susan.

“They're New Brunswick products that are interesting, creative and inspiring.”

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