Artists of Ballet BC and Arts Umbrella practise Shahar Binyamini’s BOLERO X. Part of HERE, which runs Nov. 2-4, the work brings 50 dancers on stage for the first time in Ballet BC history. (photo by Marcus Eriksson)
Ballet BC begins its season Nov. 2-4 with HERE, a diverse program that includes two new works from choreographers who have never worked with the company before, and the return, by popular demand, of Enemy in the Figure by William Forsythe.
“Each work stands on its own, and there are no common themes, so to speak,” Ballet BC artistic director Medhi Walerski told the Independent. “It invites audiences to create their own narrative and interpretation, allows for personal engagement, and invites them to explore the scope of human connection and expression.”
One of the new works featured is the world première of Israeli choreographer Shahar Binyamini’s BOLERO X.
“I have been following Shahar’s work for awhile, and I was eager for both the company and the audience to immerse themselves in his distinctive style and choreographic language,” said Walerski.
It will be the first time Binyamini is presenting his work in North America, Walerski added, “and it is a privilege that he has chosen Ballet BC for this special occasion.”
BOLERO X brings 50 dancers to the stage – the most in Ballet BC history.
Of the logistics, Walerski said a multitude of factors come into play. “Scheduling is at the forefront, both in the studios and at the theatre. Fortunately, we’re collaborating with Arts Umbrella Dance, sharing a common vision of turning the impossible into reality.
“On the production side, the costume department is putting in tremendous effort,” he said. “Led by our dedicated head of wardrobe, Kate Burrows, our incredible team is going the extra mile to bring that vision to life. Our rehearsal directors are navigating a new experience of rehearsing many dancers at once, and they are doing this brilliantly. It shows the professionalism and dedication of our remarkable team.”
Binyamini returned to Vancouver to work with the company this week. It is important that such performances continue, even when there is a war going on “because the arts and creation are amazing bridges in order to build trust,” he said. “What we see happening could easily happen anywhere else and be used as inspiration for other conflicts to accelerate in the same direction. The crime against humanity is the destruction of trust and, in order to build trust, you need to create channels into humanity. Dance could be a very important vessel or tool to connect people. And this is what gives me the motivation to be here and working. Because what I do is important, especially now.”
“Art has this unique power to breathe life into the world, and it brings vitality into our everyday lives,” said Walerski. “It is an incredible force that transcends boundaries. It has this magical ability to bridge gaps between people, regardless of geographical or cultural differences. It’s like a vibrant thread weaving through the fabric of humanity, connecting hearts and minds. It brings a sense of unity and shared understanding, nurturing a profound connection among individuals who might otherwise seem worlds apart.”
The press material for BOLERO X says “the creation explores themes of unison and repetition, while still allowing for individuality and stand-out solo and duet performances.”
“I’m focusing more and more on the dancers’ uniqueness in relation to the large group,” said Binyamini. “There is unison, but individuality within that unison. Here at Ballet BC, I find I can explore more the individual aspects and solos. These dancers are so generous and they give you everything – all they have. It’s very rewarding.”
Maurice Ravel’s 1928 composition, Bolero, “is very repetitive, obviously, the melody itself, but the orchestration brings more layers,” Binyamini explained. “A long crescendo of something getting more intense has been very present in my work previously. It’s what turns me on. So, when I started working with Ravel, I tried various works, but got fixated on this and it felt like it really fit. It allowed me to focus on something I was already into, but gave me the anchor and licence to clear out all the unnecessary thoughts or feelings. I decided to just focus on the musicality and the playfulness, which allows the dancers to stay playful.”
Binyamini was not at all daunted by the challenge of having 50 dancers on stage.
“I felt and still feel how much of a force it is to react to, and to say yes to. To have a dialogue with 50 dancers is such a powerful thing in the studio and it enables me to be in the moment, especially with all the other things going on in my life,” he said. “I feel very comfortable working with a lot of people.”
The other new creation – and world première – being presented in HERE is Stephen Shropshire’s Little Star. Originally commissioned by former Ballet BC artistic director Emily Molnar, its trip to the stage was delayed by the pandemic.
The inspiration for Little Star was composer Angelo Gilardino’s “cycle of guitar variations based upon ‘Ah vous dirais-je Maman,’ a popular children’s song originating in 18th-century France and adopted for the English-language lullaby ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,’” explains the press release. “Shropshire’s movement language for the creation is dynamic, beginning with themes suggesting something child-like and playful, before evolving into something more intricate and complex.”
Rounding out the HERE program is Forsythe’s Enemy in the Figure, which was mounted by Ballet BC in 2018. Set to music by Thom Willems, the work involves improvisation, which means that each performance is different.
“Dance can tell a universal story, like music,” Binyamini said. “I think it’s very challenging to tell a story based on movement, but, when doing it correctly, it’s very effective and has the potential to go much deeper than words, because it’s something we all have in common. We can all relate to physical effort, and have empathy for someone that is moving. You can connect to that energy. To be able to tell a universal story through movement is a big challenge, but very satisfying.”
HERE takes place Nov. 2-4, 8 p.m., at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Tickets, starting at $19, are available at balletbc.com.