Written for Daily Hive by Rachel Silver
Though we don’t like to admit it, Vancouver’s dance scene has always been overshadowed by its big brother Toronto. But the tide is changing. Vancouver’s choreographic voice is being heard loud and clear in recent years, as the city’s dance artists churn out world-class work, stamped with a distinctive west-coast style.
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Ballet BC’s upcoming Program 2 is a solid example. Coming this weekend to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, and with a lineup of all Vancouver-based choreographers, it is probably the most highly anticipated dance performance of the year. For those of you who don’t speak dance, it is the local equivalent of a star-studded Hollywood cast.
It’s a program designed to showcase BC’s best for Canada’s 150th birthday. So if you are going to see one dance performance this year, it should be this one.
After coming back from the brink of collapse a decade ago, Ballet BC is now stronger than ever. Since 2009, under the artistic direction of Emily Molnar, the company has moved further and further into the limelight, boasting work by world-renowned choreographers like William Forsythe and Ohad Naharin.
For those of you who have never seen Ballet BC, Program 2 will be a great introduction. But let us warn you: the company doesn’t often deal in tutus, princes, or fairies. In contemporary ballet, the images you see can just as easily be shockingly disturbing as beautifully evocative.
Program 2 features new choreography by Vancouver-based artists Company 605, Wen Wei Wang and Lesley Telford, along with Crystal Pite’s acclaimed returning piece, Solo Echo.
Since the mid 90s, Crystal Pite has become an internationally sought-after choreographer. As artistic director of her company, Kidd Pivot, she has choreographed over 50 pieces for dance companies in North America and Europe (including big names both nationally and internationally). Her style has a way of catching hold of you—it’s precise and theatrical, with a dark sense of wit.
Equally enticing is the new work by the ever-dynamic and energetic Company 605. Co-Artistic Directors Josh Martin and Lisa Gelley have a way of connecting their dancers as if by an electrical current, instantly adapting to the slightest shift or movement. What their style will look like on Ballet BC’s classically trained bodies is anybody’s guess.
The fact that Ballet BC has commissioned Company 605 at all has created a bit of a buzz in Vancouver’s dance community. It shows us not only the versatility of Ballet BC’s dancers, but also how intertwined the classical and contemporary dance scenes are in Vancouver.
Along with Pite and 605, the other names in Program 2’s lineup are just as strong. Wen Wei Wang, another Ballet BC alumnus, has been integral to Vancouver’s dance scene for decades. His company, Wen Wei Dance, is known creating provocative images, exploring ideas of identity, and the complexity of human communication.
And just a week after International Women’s Day, it’s fantastic to see another female Vancouver-based choreographer, Lesley Telford, premiering new work. Her duet will combine movement with the talents of local spoken word poet and musician, Barbara Adler. This is Ballet BC’s second commission of the talented Telford, following her success with 2014’s An Instant.
It’s a novelty in itself having four of Vancouver’s strongest choreographic forces stacked against each other. All the ingredients are there for the performance to be a heavy-hitter, but whether Program 2 lives up to the hype remains to be seen.
Program 2 – Ballet BC
Where: Queen Elizabeth Theatre — 650 Hamilton St, Vancouver
When: March 16 to March 18
Tickets: $15-$95; from Ticketmaster