Artists of Ballet BC in a previous presentation of Bedroom Folk by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar. (photo by Cindi Wicklund)
Ballet BC will share five new commissions as well as beloved audience favourites in its 2022/23 season. From emerging, locally based voices to renowned choreographers with deep connections to the company, and from intimate creations to large-scale ensemble works, there is much to explore.
The season opens Nov. 3-5 with Overture/s, featuring a world première from Dutch sibling duo Imre and Marne van Opstal, co-produced by Finland’s Tero Saarinen Company, the return of Bedroom Folk from Israeli choreographers Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, and Silent Tides, a work by Ballet BC artistic director Medhi Walerski.
The season continues with Horizon/s March 16-18. Vancouver-based Shay Kuebler and Czech choreographer Jiří Pokorný will each share a world première, new works exploring dichotomies within the human body and mind. Israel’s Adi Salant – former co-artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company – will be back to share WHICH/ONE, originally commissioned for Ballet BC in 2019. Salant’s work is anchored by a deep sense of presence, navigating between explosive physicality and delicate scarcity. Set to musical excerpts from A Chorus Line, in addition to an original soundscape, the piece highlights the entire company and explores contrasting themes of human performance and mundanity.
The final program of the season, Wave/s, runs May 11-13. It features two world premières from two of today’s top visionaries in contemporary dance. Tel Aviv-based Roy Assaf shares his debut creation for the Ballet BC stage and Sweden’s Johan Inger returns to share an all-new work following the success of Walking Mad and B.R.I.S.A.
Lastly, Ballet BC welcomes Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Nutcracker back to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Dec. 9-11.
For tickets to any of the season’s offerings, visit balletbc.com.
Ballet BC dancers Scott Fowler and Parker Finley in rehearsal for the company’s final program of the season, which features all Jewish community choreographers. (photo by Michael Slobodian)
Ballet BC concludes its season May 9-11 with Program 3, featuring all Jewish community choreographers: Israel’s Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, Vancouver’s Serge Bennathan and Israel’s Ohad Naharin.
Program 3 begins with the North American première of Eyal and Behar’s Bedroom Folk and concludes with the return of Naharin’s Minus 16, a crowd-pleaser that Ballet BC presented in 2017. The middle piece, by Bennathan, is a world première, commissioned by Ballet BC.
“Emily Molnar invited me to create a work for the company,” Bennathan told the Independent in a phone interview. “That’s it. All the rest is for me to create what I want for them.”
Given that leeway by Molnar, Ballet BC’s artistic director, Bennathan said he wanted to create a work for all the dancers.
“I’m so in love with the company that I felt it will be wonderful to have them all, mostly for the kind of work I do,” he said.
“When I create work, whatever it is, for my company or another company, I always say I like to have the group of people that are strong individuals that make sense together,” he explained. “That is exactly what the company is right now. If you take Ballet BC now – individually, they are quite fantastic, each of their personalities, they’re fine, but they make so much sense together. That’s the beauty of it.”
Bennathan was born in France and came to Canada more than 30 years ago. Artistic director of Toronto’s Dancemakers from 1990 to 2006, he then came to Vancouver, where he founded Les Productions Figlio.
“My work, I would say, is quite physical, but my point of departure is to work from the energy. Not the energy being exuberant or something like that, but the energy that makes you move. So, you have to be present in the moment with your body and move from inside…. You have to find it in yourself to move.”
Bennathan has created many full-length works, both for his own companies and others, and he has a long history with Ballet BC.
“My first-ever commission was the first time I came to Vancouver. Reid Anderson was the artistic director,” he said. “I had just arrived in Canada. I was a young immigrant and I was doing work here in Vancouver and they saw my work and they invited me to create. The first-ever piece was a duet. And then, throughout the years, the invitations kept coming, so I created.”
Set to an original score by Montreal-based composer Bertrand Chénier, Bennathan shared a little about next month’s première, as well as his creative process.
“It’s [about] how do you find the form of resilience. How do you sustain that [thing] that keeps your head above water? That’s what it is,” he said of the work.
“Before I create the piece with dancers, I spend time [on my own] – I paint, I sew and I write and I explore these ideas that come to me through painting; not to paint movement … but to try to extract what it means in a poetic way. So, when I ‘write,’ in the studio with the dancers, what happens is, when I choreograph, I don’t think about the piece. I let my body talk because I believe that the mounds and mounds and mounds that I read – like, for this one, I read a lot of poetry, I painted, I wrote poetry – when I’m in the studio with them, I just let my body talk when I choreograph. And then they grab it. But this is only the beginning. After that, there is another period. I don’t want them to do exactly what I did. The movement can transform itself – what needs to stay true is the essence of why we did this movement at the beginning.”
For Bennathan, dance is more than an art form.
“I left my family quite early, I was 14 years old. Let’s say, my life was taking a direction that, deep inside me, I knew it was not the direction I wanted to take. I want to say [that] to people because, sometimes we see a lot of youth and we say, ‘Oh, you should get out of this, or you should do this …’ but the fact is, sometimes, mostly when you are young, you are taken into a spiral and you cannot get out. And, if you do not have the opportunity, or create yourself the opportunity, to lead you to someone that can tell you a word or a phrase that will change you or offer something you can open the door to, you are in a terrible situation, you cannot get out. I was able to have this in my life and … at 14, I said, ‘OK, I’m going to leave this, I’m going to Paris, I’m going to study dance, and that’s what I want to become, a dancer. This saved me, literally. I needed to do this to get out of a situation I didn’t want for me.”
Bennathan described dancers as “courageous, at all levels; not courageous just to apply themselves physically – because it’s there, they have the courage to abandon themselves into this art form – but, at the same time, to live as a dance artist. And, even more in our days, you have to be courageous, you have to have resilience.”
He said he can’t just invite talented dancers from other parts of the country to come work with him here because Vancouver has become so expensive. “Young artists or young families cannot come live here anymore. That’s the thing. And you have to be courageous to say, ‘OK, I’m going to come.’… These days, you don’t just say, ‘Oh, I’m going to live in Vancouver.’”
Bennathan believes in the power of dance, and art in general, to improve the world.
“A lot of people say ‘art can save the world,’ but why can you say that? It’s because we need the inspiration, we need poetry in our lives. Sometimes, poetry, these days, is dismissed. We so forget the importance of the inspiration of poetry in our day-to-day lives. There is a reason, not only in North America, but everywhere in the world right now … why cynicism is the most important thing…. It’s because we left all this – whether it’s writing poetry, written poetry or dance or music – we stop these art forms at the door instead of inviting them into our lives.” If we did invite them in, he said, “we would talk differently and we would start to see things differently.”
Program 3 is at Queen Elizabeth Theatre May 9-11, 8 p.m., and Ballet BC will celebrate 10 years with Emily Molnar as artistic director with a reception after the closing performance on May 11. For tickets to the performances, visit balletbc.com. Tickets for the reception are available via eventbrite.ca.
“I could not let it go on without being there to see the outcome,” Adi Salant told the Independent in a phone interview from Israel about the new work she is creating with Ballet BC. The piece will have its première Feb. 28-March 2 at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
Salant was in Vancouver last August to work with the company and she was scheduled to return here earlier this week to help prepare for the performances.
“The [creative] process was split into two periods,” she explained, “and I was there for three weeks [in the summer], building the major part of the piece. Now I’m coming, it’s more the last adjustments, refining, rethinking, being open to the suggestions that will happen, but most of it is ready and they are working on it now, preparing it for my arrival. I’m very excited to meet them and meet the piece again because it’s been awhile.”
Salant knows Ballet BC artistic director Emily Molnar from the world of dance in general, but the two really connected just over two years ago, when Salant was invited to be one of the choreographers taking part in the inaugural Creative Gesture, a residency program led by Molnar and program head Stephen Laks at the Banff Centre. For the program, Salant had to create a short piece for the young dancers, who attended the residency from several countries, “to see how it is to work professionally.”
“I really enjoyed the energy there and the way I worked with the dancers. And she [Molnar] believed in me and gave me the opportunity to come and work with her company.”
Creating something in two time periods is interesting, said Salant. “It gives you time to reflect and to visit it with videos, or in my mind or afterthoughts of what happened. Even though I’m not there [in Vancouver], it’s like I stayed with the dancers. I got to know them.”
The limited amount of time made the work more intense, she said, “because both the dancers and I know, OK, we have now three weeks. There’s engagement and we’re just going for it.”
The piece involves many dancers. “I knew I wanted a feeling of a big group,” said Salant. “I think there will be 17 people, if I’m not mistaken. I fell in love with all of them and we want to use everybody…. I enjoyed so much and appreciated so much the energy and open hearts, and diving in with me to the unknown.”
In considering the piece about to be performed, as well as her previous works, Salant said, “I am just so fascinated by life – the everyday kind of life and the demands of life and the struggles. Some people, they create from what they dream about; I’m more about what I’m experiencing every day, so that’s the energy [of the new piece]. It’s about how, in life, you can plan and plan, but you can meet someone … if it’s a job interview or, for our profession, if it’s an audition, so he chooses, yes you are in, no you are out, and how [that concept] applies to the rest of your life. Or where you’re born … if you’re born into this kind of society or this kind of place, it’s also affecting you…. You can aim, but, in the end, we divide: you go there, you go there, you yes, you no, you up, you stay there, you down.”
Salant has been dancing since she was a young girl. “I started to dance in Bat-Dor dance group in Tel Aviv when I was 6…. When I graduated high school, I went for an audition … and, lucky for me, I was the one that got the yes.”
After two years at Batsheva Dance Company, she was invited to join the main company, with which she danced for five years. “Then I left, but I stayed in a very close relationship professionally with Ohad Naharin [then-artistic director of Batsheva], staging his works all over the world … and setting his repertoire for different companies – this is actually where I met Stephen, who I mentioned before. He was dancing in Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. It’s very nice and very exciting for me to look back and to realize, on this journey, I have met so many people.”
Members of her generation of dancers are now leading companies, choreographing and teaching, she said. “It’s really nice to see, and I enjoy very good and close relationships with my colleagues and we continue to share our passion in that way.”
Salant returned to Batsheva in 2009, but, she said, “this time, Ohad invited me as the co-artistic director.” She held that position until October 2017, when she struck out on her own.
“It’s part of my journey – all the tools that I collected until now and the experiences, and having actually more time now that I’m not directing a very busy company and dealing with the schedule of the company,” she said. “Now I have my schedule, and [am] owning my time in a way. I put the focus on choreographing and teaching workshops around the globe.”
Salant said she has created a motto of sorts for work, “Adi – Life is Moving,” “because I really enjoy meeting with people and, [while] it’s true that I’m coming to teach dance to them, I really connect it to life, and their life and how their emotions and, again, like I said about my work, this piece, it’s the same when I’m teaching or when I’m working now with the dancers of Ballet BC. Yes, I’m giving them the movements but I’m all the time connecting it to life, to the everyday behaviour. That’s what I’m aiming for.”
Salant teaches in various places around the world. This April, for example, she will be in Los Angeles for a week. “It’s called the Gypsy Project…. It’s the second time that I am involved there,” she said. “I’m looking forward to go, and to share and to learn and to deepen my knowledge and understanding.”
Salant reiterated her appreciation for Molnar. “As I said, I left my job as the co-artistic director and it’s, of course, a demanding job and you’re recognized with this position and with this place…. When I left and wanted to now continue to choreograph, because I did choreograph before, but I put it on hold because it was too intensive with the company life and, of course, I have three kids, something had to wait … Emily really was the first to open her door and believe fully. It’s not something that you see so often, that you feel that someone believes in you and takes a chance and appreciates who you are, knows your strengths and believes in your strength, no matter your title.”
Salant has enjoyed working with Ballet BC. “I had an amazing meeting with the dancers,” she said. “They inspired me and moved me a lot, so I really can’t wait to come back on Monday [Feb. 11], even though I miss my family. I have to leave three kids behind, and that’s the hardest part, but I’m happy that we can share again our time together and bring it on stage and to the audience what we did.”
Salant and her husband, Jesper Thirup Hansen, have two daughters, 10 and 8, and a 5-and-a-half-year-old son. Thirup Hansen is a physiotherapist. “I met him in Batsheva, he was a dancer, he is Danish,” said Salant. “Actually, they joined me in the summer in Vancouver; the whole family came. They had such a great time. I came to their place from work, and they told me all the fabulous things they did that day.”
Ballet BC artists perform Bill, by Israeli choreographers Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, with musician Ori Lichtik. The company premièred the work in Vancouver 2016 and is bringing it back as part of Program 3 May 10-12 at Queen Elizabeth Theatre. (photo by Chris Randle)
What’s coming out of Israel is some of the “most exciting” dance, Ballet BC artistic director Emily Molnar told the Independent in a phone interview last week about the company’s upcoming program May 10-12, which includes the return of Bill, by Israeli choreographers Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, with musician Ori Lichtik.
“It’s moved around the world in different generations, where the leading focus is coming from in dance,” said Molnar, “and I think that Israel is, right now, very much one of the major centres…. There is something about the way that the body is being spoken through the dance that’s coming out of Israel that is very relevant right now … it’s exploring more the sophistication and the rawness and the curiosity and the aliveness of using the body in dance.”
Ballet BC performed the Canadian première of Bill in 2016 and have since toured nationally and internationally with it, as part of an evening of female choreographers, along with Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo and Molnar’s 16 + a room. Given the response to Bill after its première here, Molnar said, “It was just one of those things that, to me, was obvious – this needed to come back to Vancouver audiences.”
And it will be a somewhat different performance than it was two years ago. “It’s more in the skin of the performers,” said Molnar. She explained that, having toured with it, the piece is “more familiar” to the dancers, “so they can take different forms of risk than they did before, when they first learnt it. And, each year, we’ve been bringing someone who is familiar with the work and close to Sharon’s work to come and work with us on it, so we keep tuning it each time we do it.”
Ballet BC has only recently returned from six weeks in Europe. The company toured the United Kingdom with the Dance Consortium, which works with their network of presenters to put together a touring circuit for international companies. “They only do two a year, and we were one of them,” said Molnar. “Then we attached that to two weeks in Germany.” In Germany, Ballet BC was the first Canadian company to be invited to perform in Wolfsburg, for the Movimentos Festival, she said.
“There are really a few festivals in Europe that really are landmarks or venues,” she explained, saying that Sadler’s Wells in London, England, where Ballet BC also performed, and Wolfsburg were two of them. “And, next year, we’re going to Luxembourg, so that’s another big one. And then we’re going to Madrid, and also to Tel Aviv, hopefully. More and more touring is coming up for the company, which is really great for us. We love being here at home, for sure, but to be able to have more shows and to diversify audiences, we get more information about what works … we learn more about what we’re trying to do.”
Touring is a relatively new phenomenon, said Molnar. When she danced with the company, they may have toured a week and, when she started as artistic director almost 10 years ago, they weren’t touring at all, she said. “Then we started touring maybe two weeks of the year, and now, this year, we’re out about six or seven, and next year could be even more. There will be a limit, because we have to build a certain amount of work in order to do each season, so we’re not going to be a company that’s constantly on tour because we have a subscription series and we love being three times a year here in Vancouver.”
In many Ballet BC programs, audiences can expect to see a piece choreographed by Molnar.
“I work very closely with the dancers, with the company,” she said of her creative process. “I will often start with proposing ideas or text or ‘what if you tried this’ … and then we start to build some vocabulary. From that vocabulary, I start to compound it and build a dictionary and, from that, I start to place it into some form of a world…. I’m not someone who goes in and shows every step; I definitely cultivate a conversation or way of thinking about a theme or a topic … and then we start to see what comes out of it. I work a lot with improvisation before I get to things that are often scored. But, when I do score something – in other words, when I set it choreographically – I do often still try to keep some things that might be improvisational, but that’s not always the case.”
She said, “It’s more about finding unusual timings, unusual possibilities in the movement. I think that, although I’m very attracted to the expression of the body … there is usually always a concept for me of what I’m working with in the way that I grid, the way that I compose.”
Where the music comes in depends on the work. Sometimes it comes first, and that is the case with the work she has created for this season’s Program 3 with Graeme Langager, conductor of the Phoenix Chamber Choir.
Molnar said that she and Langager had been looking for awhile at how they could bring Ballet BC and the choir together in a performance. “We have a lot of shared philosophy,” said Molnar, so it was a case of “when can we make this happen, and this program seemed like the right one.”
Langager proposed a few compositions, and Molnar was drawn to one by Peteris Vasks called Plainscapes. But it’s a short piece, so that has been part of the challenge of choreographing it – “it’s only 15 minutes,” she said, “and I’m working with the full company, as opposed to a duet or something like that.”
As well, she said, there are 30 voices in the choir, a cello and a violin. “It’s this very beautiful, very intimate, but driving piece of music that has a mysterious urgency to it and I took it as a reflection of a landscape of memory, this desire to want to hold on to remembering something…. The more we lose memory of something, the more we want it to exist.” In her choreography, she tries to communicate that feeling – the desire to hold on to life, on to our memories.
When putting together a triple bill, Molnar said she looks first for diversity “that will take the audience, as a full evening, on a certain type of journey, as opposed to the same tone.
“It is always a risk when we’re doing new work,” she said, “but we don’t always have new work on the program. So, for instance, in this program, I knew mine would be new, so that’s an unknown, but I knew what Bill was and I knew what Beginning After was, which is the first work of the evening, which is a piece by our resident choreographer Cayetano Soto … to the music of [George Frideric] Handel, a beautiful aria. So, all of the pieces have a certain vocal aspect to them…. That wasn’t what drew me to say, oh, this evening is about the voice, but there is a certain type of humanity because the voice is involved in the musical aspect of the show. But there are things that are very different within each of the pieces, and then there is this real attention to the individual but also to the collective throughout each of the pieces.”
Next year will be Molnar’s 10th as artistic director of Ballet BC. Even before she got the job, she said, she had hoped that “its presence as a contemporary dance company, which was very clear before I ever joined as a dancer or as artistic director, would get, not just recognition but that it would have life outside of its own city and be an ambassador for all the new work” it was creating.
“It was not as known within the community as I thought it could be,” she said, noting that, for it to become known, some barriers had to be broken down about “what it meant to walk into a theatre under the banner of a ballet company.
“There are so many ways that can be,” she said, “and I’ve been really trying to work on that, that it’s really about having a conversation and it’s about sharing and it’s about understanding what dance can be, and it’s not about ballet, it’s about dance, it’s about art, it’s about community – and these are not meant to be catchphrases. Seriously, when you bring people together in a live performance and you have a conversation that’s been meaningful for a group of artists and you try to meaningfully extend that over to an audience and they care about it, then there are a lot of really exciting things that can happen.”
And one such exciting thing will be announced at Program 3. Ballet BC will be one of the first companies to commission the work of an emerging female Israeli choreographer so that, next season, Ballet BC will be performing three Israeli works. “We have Ohad [Naharin] coming back,” said Molnar. “We have another work of Sharon’s, a new work for us, and then….” (The JI is not one to ruin a surprise.)
Program 3 runs May 10-12, 8 p.m., at Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Tickets run from $35 to $100 and can be purchased from ticketmaster.ca or 1-855-985-2787.
Choreographer Emanuel Gat, who was in Vancouver for a few weeks at the beginning of the year, will return for the Ballet BC world première of his new work. (photo by Wendy D Photography)
Ballet BC finishes this season May 11-13 with Program 3, which features a world première by choreographer Emanuel Gat, an almost world première by Emily Molnar and the Ballet BC première of Minus 16 by Ohad Naharin.
“I have long admired the works of Emanuel Gat and Ohad Naharin and have been eager to bring them to our artists and audiences,” says Molnar, artistic director of Ballet BC, in the press release announcing the program. She isn’t the only one to admire the creativity of choreographers Gat and Naharin, and many dance fans will be excited to see their work performed. Professional dancers age 16 and over will even have a chance to learn with Gat in person on May 6, when he teaches excerpts from the 30-minute piece he created for the full Ballet BC company (balletbc.com/choreographic-workshop-emanuel-gat).
Both Gat and Naharin started their dance careers relatively late, in their 20s, but have more than made up for any lost time. Born in 1952 in Kibbutz Mizra, in northern Israel, Naharin has been artistic director of Batsheva Dance Company since 1990 and is the creator of the movement language called Gaga – it is not an exaggeration to say he is an icon of contemporary dance. Born in Netanya in 1969, Gat is artistic director of Emanuel Gat Dance, which he established in 2004, and his works have been performed around the world.
Gat’s career trajectory changed when, at age 23, he attended a workshop led by another Israeli choreographer, Nir Ben Gal.
“I was studying music at the time,” Gat told the Independent in an email interview. “I’d just started a first year at the Rubin Academy of Music, and intended to be a conductor. I stopped a few months after starting to dance.”
Within a couple of years, Gat was working as an independent choreographer. When he founded his company, it was at the Suzanne Dellal Centre in Tel Aviv, which Batsheva Dance Company also calls home. However, after about 15 years in Tel Aviv and a few in the south of Israel, Gat moved to France in 2007, where he lives in a small village near Aix-en-Provence.
One of the aspects Gat most likes about being a choreographer is that “you work with a group of people, that it’s not a solitary process, and that it’s always full of surprises and insights.”
In various interviews, he has stressed the importance of process in the creation of a work.
“Time, space and eager dancers, basically,” he said of the elements needed for a creative environment. “All the rest is a result of an ongoing process of examining different questions regarding these elements, the way in which they come together and affect each other.”
While the Ballet BC program doesn’t name Gat’s new work, his website lists it as Lock.
“It comes from a certain task I gave [the dancers] on devising ways of joining two separated phrases,” he said about the title. “One of the strategies they came up with, they named ‘lock,’ which I liked the sound of.”
Gat was in Vancouver for a few weeks at the beginning of the year to create the piece, he said, and he will be returning “to finalize the work and create the light[ing] for it.”
“I’m very happy about this project,” he said, “and it was a lot of fun creating together with this talented bunch.”
Heading the talented bunch at Ballet BC since 2009 has been Molnar. The National Arts Centre in Ottawa commissioned her latest work as part of ENCOUNT3RS. The NAC presentation paired “three Canadian choreographers with three Canadian composers to create works with original scores, in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary,” notes the Ballet BC release. Molnar’s creation, set to a score by Canadian composer Nicole Lizée, saw its world première in Ottawa at the NAC April 20-22 and local audiences will see it as part of Program 3.
Rounding out Program 3 is Naharin’s Minus 16. Unfortunately, the choreographer won’t be able to make it to Vancouver for the performance. For just over two months now, he and Batsheva Dance Company dancers have been developing Venezuela, a full evening work set to start its première run at the Suzanne Dellal Centre May 12. But Batsheva personnel will be helping Ballet BC rehearse their first Naharin work.
“I have a team that can do it without me, though I would love to join all the premières,” Naharin told the Independent in a phone interview from Tel Aviv. “I trust them,” he said. “They have done it before without me many times.”
At the start of his career, he said, “I didn’t have the safety net of people I can trust and that knew how to do it; I didn’t have the skill myself to teach other people how to do it. Over the years, and especially with Minus – because Minus has been done by a lot of companies and also it’s a work that we do, or we do versions of it – my assistants have become experts at doing it and teaching it. It’s true that still, given the control freak that I am, it’s an exercise of letting go each time, but it’s a good exercise.”
The Ballet BC program description of Minus 16 mentions its “mesmerizing use of improvisation.”
“The idea is to give dancers as much information as possible, because it’s not about free form or do whatever you want,” explained Naharin about how improvisational aspects are “written” into a piece of choreography. “It’s about basing your intention, dynamics, texture, volume on very clear ideas, and those ideas are shared with the dancers, then they improvise and they get feedback. Usually, it’s not about what not to do. Feedback usually will highlight what was weak or what was right, what was the moment that produced what it needed. What is nice about the situation is that it can offer a [dimension] that I didn’t write that can be just as good, if not better sometimes.”
But, he said, about Minus, “There is very little improvisation in the piece, actually. What has made the piece easy to teach … is that it is very structured. Also, some of it is built on repetition and accumulation; it is not crowded with a lot of steps. Some of my work has a more complex structure, many different people doing different things and different movements, and that takes a lot of time and also skills and experience to learn and to teach. With Minus, a lot of it is unison and a big chunk of it is about repetition and accumulation, and very clear counts – so many times, my work is done to music that doesn’t have a groove or a beat, and the manic of the movements comes from listening to each other and understanding the essence of the creative pulse of the movement. With Minus, almost all the movements are counted and based on a particular rhythm that also comes from and is supported by the music. The improvisation part of Minus is meaningful, but it’s not the big part of it.”
Originally created in 1999, Minus 16 is “set to a score ranging from Dean Martin to mambo, techno to traditional Israeli music.” Of what ties its elements together, Naharin said, “I think, in balance, what ties things together in a right way is not how different the ingredients are from each other or how similar they are, but it’s how you try to create the right tension between all the elements.
“It’s just like if you go and look at the landscape. Sometimes it can be just desert and sky, and sometimes it can be a landscape that’s crowded with a lot of elements, including bridges or houses or the sun or clouds or birds or animals or people or machines, and it can still create something that is coherent and clear. It can also create, potentially, the sensation of ‘wow!’ And the reason it’s all connected is not because of what the ingredients are but how they are all organized.”
While there are no rules about what music can go with another music, he said, “a choreographer has his own rules, or his own code.” He explained that a choreographer could set an evening-length work to only the music of Mozart and still the work’s elements may not connect well, whereas shorter pieces set to vastly different music could work together well as a whole – “you could put John Zorn with Vivaldi and it can be magnificent,” he said. “It has to do with creating the right tension and the right mix.”
Naharin has been creating that balance since his choreographic debut in 1980.
“There are a few things I can think of immediately,” he said about what he loves about his work. “One of them is the pleasure of research and finding things that I didn’t know existed before I found them, couldn’t even imagine before I found them, and I find them in the process.
“Another thing is the pleasure of working with a brilliant, generous, beautiful, creative group of people that I love; learning from them and sharing with them what I learn.
“I love what the dancers offer me. Not when they show me my choreography but when they show me their interpretation of my choreography, and when they can offer a narrative that I didn’t write. That can be very moving.
“I like to dance. I love to move. I love to make up movements. I need to dance. It’s something that, if I don’t do it, I’m unhappy.”
He added, “For me, to dance is not about performing. I don’t need an audience to dance.”
One of his favourite places to dance? “I love to dance in the shower.”
Anything else he’d like Jewish Independent readers to know? “Just not to forget to dance a little bit every day.”
Program 3 runs May 11-13, 8 p.m., at Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Tickets range from $21.25 to $91.25 and can be purchased from 1-855-985-2787 (855-985-ARTS) or ticketmaster.ca. For more information, visit balletbc.com.
Ballet BC dancer Gilbert Small is among those who will perform Program 3. (photo by Michael Slobodian)
Ballet BC finishes this season with Program 3, which features the remount of artistic director Emily Molnar’s 16+ a room and of Finnish-born choreographer Jorma Elo’s I and I am You – as well as the Canadian première of Israeli choreographer Sharon Eyal’s Bill.
Already in Vancouver setting Eyal’s work for Ballet BC is Osnat Kelner, who has been choreographing since 2001. In addition to her own creations, Kelner is an assistant choreographer for Eyal and American-Israel choreographer Barak Marshall.
“I met both Sharon and Barak for the first time when I was dancing in the ensemble Batsheva in 2000 and they created pieces for the company,” Kelner told the Independent.
“I started setting Sharon’s pieces in 2005 after working with her again, this time as the rehearsal director of ensemble Batsheva, where she created another piece.
“I started working with Barak as his assistant in 2008. A year earlier, I met him in Israel, after his long absence. He discussed the option of coming to create a new piece, said he still remembered how great it was to work with me, and that he’d like me on his team.”
Eyal, who is based in Tel Aviv, is former resident choreographer of the Batsheva Dance Company. She currently is artistic director of L-E-V, a company she and Gai Behar formed. For Bill, she again collaborated with Behar and musician, drummer and DJ Ori Lichtik. In the work, notes Ballet BC, “Eyal combines dance, music and design into an instantly recognizable whole of raw, unexpected beauty created with equal parts ebb and flow. Premièred by Batsheva Dance Company, Bill showcases Eyal’s trademark shifts from large group to smaller ensemble, which, in turn, morph into breathtaking solos.”
“In order to set another choreographer’s pieces,” explained Kelner about her role in the production, “you firstly need their trust, you need a really good memory, the ability to see the big picture and the smallest details, and a way with people. It means you are responsible for passing information to dancers who have never worked with this choreographer before, and you try to stay as honest to that person’s vision as you understand it.”
Kelner also has her creative vision, which she focuses on more than one artistic endeavor.
“As a freelancer,” she said, “I do many different things. I choreograph, I stage other choreographers’ pieces, I work as rehearsal director for independent projects, I make costumes for dance and theatre, I sometimes perform myself and I’m the mother of a 19-month-old boy. I can’t imagine it any other way. I love being involved in many different projects, in different roles, and sometimes at the same time. I only grow and learn from it, as an artist and a person.”
Audiences at Program 3 will also see Molnar’s 16+ a room, set to music by Dirk Haubrich and inspired by the work of writers Jeanette Winterson and Emily Dickinson. According to the press material, it “displays Molnar’s unique choreographic language through a complex study of time, transition and stillness, where the space between is as important as the space occupied, where one is left with the feeling of both liberty and disappearance.”
Finally, Elo’s I and I am You, first performed by Ballet BC in 2013, features “Elo’s signature virtuosic vocabulary and lightning-fast musicality interspersed with moments of enormous intimacy and tenderness.”
Program 3 is at Queen Elizabeth Theatre May 12-14, 8 p.m. Tickets, which range from $30 to $90, can be purchased at 1-855-985-2787 or ticketmaster.ca.
Maya Tenzer joins Ballet BC for its 2014/15 season. (photo by Michael Slobodian)
Earlier this year, Ballet BC welcomed five new company members, bringing the total to 14, and four new apprentices. Now part of this intimate group is Maya Tenzer, who has joined the company as an apprentice for its 29th season, which begins Nov. 6 with No. 29.
No. 29 features the world première of White Act by Fernando Hernando Magadan, the Ballet BC première of An Instant by Lesley Telford and the reprisal of A.U.R.A. by Jacopo Godani.
“With this program, we will have commissioned 29 new works over the past five years by dance makers from around the world,” said Emily Molnar, Ballet BC artistic director, in a press release. “No. 29 is an evening that will showcase a dynamic and versatile range of dance while offering an engaging experience for audiences. It will grab you, excite you and challenge your ideas of ballet.”
Tenzer, 20, should fit in well with Ballet BC, which prides itself on being “grounded in the rigor and artistry of classical ballet, with an emphasis on innovation and the immediacy of the 21st century.” She joins the company from Arts Umbrella, with whom she studied and worked – with countless choreographers – from age 10.
“I was led to Arts Umbrella through a friend who did the summer intensive there and loved it,” Tenzer told the Independent. “I had begun to dance one year before in Paris, France, where my family had been living for the year. I started out taking one class a week, but I knew the following year I wanted to be doing more. In the many years to come of my training at Arts Umbrella, the school became my home and provided me with invaluable training. At Arts Umbrella, I was given the tools to joy and success in dance and in the world.”
She also trained at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. In a four-week summer intensive, she said, “I danced six days a week with demanding classes and a high level of commitment always demanded. The training there was vital to me. I was exposed to Gaga (a movement language created by Ohad Naharin, the director of Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv) and all the studios there have no mirrors, so I learned to love the freedom of not having the mirror as a distraction while dancing. I felt my individuality and ownership as a dancer take off while there.”
Locally, Tenzer apprenticed, in 2013, with choreographer Justine A. Chambers in the creation of Sphinx, “a solo created in collaboration with contemporary gamelan composer, Michael Tenzer,” according to Chambers’ website.
“For that project, being an apprentice meant acting as a body Justine could look at her movement on,” Tenzer told the JI. “It sometimes meant developing movement with her, and it was above all an amazing opportunity to work alongside Justine, who is an intelligent and generous artist.
“Also, Michael Tenzer is my father! Both my parents are music teachers – my dad at UBC and my mom at Suncrest Elementary School in Burnaby. The creative arts have always been an irreplaceable part of my daily life.”
As has Judaism, “in bringing together … family in a special way. I was never strongly religious but I love the bonds that the traditions of Judaism have made for me,” she said.
On the international front, Tenzer has toured with Arts Umbrella Dance Company, an experience she described as “a joy.”
“I thrive on the relentless schedule and the new experiences,” she said. “Last year, we spent one week in Holland and one week in Italy, taking workshops, rehearsing with NDT (Netherlands Dance Theatre), and preparing our own show. Being tired was a constant but, often, being at your end can be a catalyst for the best kinds of change and improvement.”
And that brings us back to Ballet BC. “Being an apprentice means I have the same schedule and opportunities to work with the incredible people that come to Ballet BC, but that often I will be an understudy for a piece instead of dancing in the first cast,” she explained. “This gives me a chance to learn from the artists of Ballet BC as they work to create the powerful art we see onstage.”
Tenzer spoke of dance as allowing her to connect body and mind. “To practise aligning the two daily, as my job, is a gift and an inspiration,” she said. “The environment at Ballet BC is supportive of being vulnerable and taking risks in order to enter new territory, and this is exciting and a privilege to be a part of.”
No. 29 is at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Nov. 6-8, 8 p.m. Tickets range from $30 to $80 (including service charges) and can be purchased from Ticketmaster at 1-855-985-2787 or ticketmaster.ca.