Ballet Edmonton’s new season opens in expansive Art Gallery of Alberta

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Finally, the dancers can touch again.

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The pandemic has been a difficult time for everyone, but as artists who depend on physical interaction to do their jobs, it has brought professional dancers to an end.

Like most arts organizations, Ballet Edmonton is yet to return to a whole new season, but artistic director Wen Wei Wang and his dancers are excited to repeat Program One, the company’s first full show in over a year. year. Including several prominent musicians as special guests, the hour-long show is planned and tailored for performances in the evocative open spaces of the Alberta Gallery of Art, October 14-16.

“The past year brought real limitations, but now things are starting to open up,” Wang said. “It was very difficult because the dancers were always wearing masks and we did very little group work, mostly small solo parts. But this year we can touch. We all survived and I think that experience made the company stronger.

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Movement exhibitions

The AGM site was chosen for several reasons, starting with its large exhibition spaces: up to 70 customers will be allowed to watch each program wherever they want. Beyond that, Wang sees it as a chance for the dancers to interact with the building’s unique architectural ambience.

“It’s not like a theater space,” he explains. “The architecture of the building really changes the way you choreograph a piece. And the quality of the live sounds during our rehearsal was something special. It’s exciting to collaborate with the art gallery and local musicians. People can stand and walk around during the show and admire the gallery exhibits at the same time. “

All three pieces will feature the company’s eight regular dancers and an apprentice, demonstrating their ability to work with various aspects of contemporary music and dance styles.

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Program one begins with a series of short sections tuned to the six movements of JS Bach’s Suite for Solo Cello No. 3, with Ronda Metszies of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra on cello. Wang choreographed this part of the show in a contemporary ballet style.

Then the dancers will gradually draw customers upstairs to the third floor of the AGM where jazz bassist Mike Lent will interact with them for the second part of the show. The dancers do “structured improvisations”, more reflecting a style of jazz dance.

“The third floor of the gallery is so colorful that I wanted the room to be uplifting, fun and more upbeat,” says Wang. “It’s beautiful to watch, like a conversation between the musician and the dancers. Sometimes the music guides them, sometimes the dancers change the music, but it’s pretty spontaneous so you don’t always know what’s going to happen.

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The final part of the show aims to spotlight the dancers as if they were part of a sculptural installation with opera singer Catherine Daniel on hand to inspire their movements and shapes.

“Her voice is so beautiful,” Wang adds. “He’s an angel and their bodies are more like a sculpture.”

Collective commitment

The Chinese-born master choreographer still oversees his Vancouver company, Wen Wei Dance, but this is the fourth year of what began as a two-year contract with Ballet Edmonton.

“We all want to live, be healthy and work more than ever. I started to enjoy creating even more because you realize how fragile life can be, ”says Wang. “I’m still here because of the dancers and the way these young artists work so hard. “

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Two dancers from this year’s lineup are new to the company, Australia-born Adrian de Leeuw and Vancouver-raised Matthew Wyllie.

Ballet Edmonton Executive Director Sheri Somerville congratulated the dancers for persevering during this time to stay true to their craft and move the company forward.

“Dancers are like Olympic athletes,” says Somerville. “The way they use their bodies at such a high level, if you take away their facilities, their procedures and their training coaches, you diminish their skills. They were great, sacrificing to stay together as a cohort from the start. Everyone said yes to the process because they wanted to dance so much, so it was a very rewarding experience. We are like a family.

As recently announced, Ballet Edmonton will present two more shows this season. Their regular pre-Christmas fundraiser, Be Merry, featuring live guest musicians, performs at the Varscona Theater from December 9-11 and December 16-18.

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Next year, Ballet Edmonton will travel to the Banff Center for a special residency including rehearsals with renowned Colombian-born Montreal choreographer and multimedia artist Andrea Pina, whom Wang calls “cutting edge.” Then, in early May, Pina will join the company here to direct part of the season finale at MacEwan’s Triffo Theater in Allard Hall. This show will also include a piece by Edmonton Ballet dancer Diego Ramalho and another work by their artistic director.

All of this season’s shows are currently filming and will be available for viewing online later.

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PREVIEW

Ballet Edmonton presents Program One

Or Art Gallery of Alberta, 2 Sir Winston Churchill Sq.

When October 14 at 5:30 p.m., October 15-16 at 3:00 p.m.

Tickets $ 14 from balletedmonton.ca

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