When Ballet BC’s artistic director Emily Molnar takes to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre stage to introduce the 32nd season premiere, the company is fresh from performing at Laguna Dance Festival and debuting a world premiere at New York’s Fall for Dance. After some hometown shows, the company will embark on a U.K. tour in March. “We’ve been travelling,” Molnar says, “but our heart is here.”
There’s certainly a global aspect to Vancouver’s contemporary ballet company, as executive director John Clark asserts before the performance, his first with Ballet BC. Indeed, his recent move from Miami was prompted by praise of the company from overseas—the chief executive and artistic director of the Scottish Ballet. “This company is so well respected internationally, I don’t know that Vancouverites understand that,” he says. “[Although] I think there are loyal followers and patrons who are getting it.” No doubt these patrons were witness to the company’s rejuvenation once Molnar came onboard in 2009, pushing the envelope as a creation-based contemporary ballet company and forging international collaborations. The legacy continues in Ballet BC’s 2017/2018 season.
The season’s Program 1 ran at the beginning of November, featuring works from Ballet BC’s resident choreographer, Barcelona-based Cayetano Soto, and Johan Inger, known for his work with the Nederlands Dans Theater. This world premiere of Soto’s Eight Years of Silence presented a one-act inspired by Soto’s “reflection of calmness … to start again from zero and see where I wanted to go” following a near-death experience, as he revealed in a pre-performance chat. At one of the ticketholder Q&A sessions, which are hosted prior to each Ballet BC performance, Inger spoke to incorporating wind and as another element in his piece, B.R.I.S.A., to address themes of change and liberation in Program 1’s second half.
In February, Program 2 will present what Clark promises to be a “very contemporary and avant garde” rendition of Romeo and Juliet from choreographer Medhi Walerski, set to Sergei Prokofiev’s classic score. The performance marks the first full-length ballet for Walerski, who is known for his numerous short works at Nederlands Dans Theatre, and will round out the full Ballet BC company with students from Vancouver’s Arts Umbrella Graduate Dance Program.
The season culminates in May with Program 3’s triple bill, including a new work from Molnar herself to be accompanied live by a 16-minute choral work from Vancouver’s Phoenix Chamber Chorus. Molnar’s piece will be bookended by company favourites first shown at Ballet BC in 2016: Soto’s Beginning After and Bill from Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar from Israel’s L.E.V. dance company.
“Obviously we’re a Canadian company first and foremost,” says Clark. “We have a Canadian director, 70 per cent of our dancers are from Canada—but we also want to show B.C. and Vancouver what is out there—not just say, yes, we are an incredible province with wonderful dancers and wonderful choreographers, but let’s show the world that we can compete on a global scale. And we are.”
Photos by Michael Slobodian.
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