Ballet BC’s opening trio teases evocative season

Dancers Gilbert Small, Scott Fowler & Alexis Fletcher in Twenty Eight Thousand Waves. Choreography by Cayetano Soto.

Photo by Michael Slobodian.

By Brittany Tiplady

Artistic Director Emily Molnar stood eloquently in first position on the Queen Elizabeth stage on Thursday night, dressed in a black silk dress, her pixie cut hair blending into the maroon curtains.

“We like to keep people surprised,” she laughed, “so there will be change in the order of the program tonight.”

The 30th anniversary season for Ballet BC was carefully crafted by Molnar, elevating the level of artistry that the company has brought to the stage since the beginning of her reign in 2009.

Bringing together former Ballet BC member Crystal Pite, Belgian-born choreographer Stijn Celis, and Spanish choreographer Cayetano Soto, Molnar proves once again that Ballet BC is here to stay.

Program 1 began with Twenty Eight Thousand Waves, choreography, lighting, and costume design by Mr.Soto, Ballet BC’s new resident choreographer.

The dancers glided across the marley floors with the fluidity of figure skaters and the power of super heroes. Their bodies like mythological statues in a Greek museum working through the spine-tingling energy of survival and the human condition.

Based on the fact that, on average, an oil tanker at sea is hit by waves 28,000 times a day, the performance explores the transition between life and death, and the demand for personal evolution through life’s ever changing tides.

Twenty Eight Thousand Waves brought together the contrast of femininity and strength, with costume design that featured women in flesh coloured leotards and men in powder blue kilts. The partner work was both complex and fluid. Watching the dancers work in pas de deux felt like watching two lovers speak their own language, with a foreign but elegant fluency.

Dancer Emily Chessa stood out of the pack. Her small frame and powerful approach to articulate technique, generated liquified movement that was simply enchanting.

The performance sent the audience into an emotional journey with Soto’s vision. Creating tidal waves of power with a soft transitions into bold movement and dynamic lighting.

In the second act, the curtains rose to 50 male singers on the Queen Elizabeth stage. Awe, a world premiere choreographed by Stijn Celis, was accompanied by local men’s choir, Chor Leoni.

Awe is a marriage of art and movement, told through vocal and physical instruments. The voices of Chor Leoni, under the direction of Erick Lichte, powered the dancers through deep-rooted movement paired with earthy costumes. The choir sang the texts of Leonard Cohen acapella, creating a two-dimensional palette on stage that was haunting and melancholic.

But after the compelling performance of Twenty Eight Thousand Waves, Celis’ Awe, didn’t quite live up to its name.

The night finished with Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo, a wintery piece of work that was originally created for Nederlands Dans Theater in 2012.

The Canadian premiere of Solo Echo cultivated an ethereal, enigmatic energy that hushed the audience from a restless second intermission, into a captivated state of mesmerization.

Solo Echo was inspired by two Brahms sonatas, as well as Mark Strand’s poem Lines for Winter. Ms. Pite, as Molnar shared during the Q&A, has been driven by Brahm’s music for some time before she made the leap to choreograph Solo Echo.

The piece walks through the stages of the human condition, moving through youth, freedom, individuality, to aging, loss, and acceptance. Solo Echo brought crowd members to their feet without hesitation. The choreography connected all seven dancers as one entity, transcending their movement into a language that spoke volumes for the talent and tenacity Ms. Pite has to offer the world of dance.

The myriad of work in Program 1 was a delightful appetizer for the season that created a buzz amongst even veteran Ballet BC audience members. The evening left no doubt that the troupe will be gracing Vancouver for another 30 years.

brittany photo

Brittany Tiplady is a part-time poet, and a full-time goat cheese enthusiast. She loves the indoors, fast wifi, collecting maps, and a generous glass of red wine.