Ballet Victoria opened its 13th season with “Ballet Rocks” that featured five original pieces (including three world premieres) set to the rock music of Pink Floyd, BB King, Sting and U2, exploring various themes from loss to love in the first act. The second act was an homage to Broadway classics (including Fame, Sweet Charity, Chicago, Moulin Rouge, All That Jazz and more), driving a balletic comedy where an aging star reluctantly faces her decline and passes on the torch.
The first piece, entitled “Fragile,” was an homage to the families and loved ones left behind by the soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in war. Choreographed by artistic director Paul Destrooper (a native of Montreal) and set to live music performed by the harpist Julia Cunningham and her musicians in their original adaptation of Sting’s Fragile, the piece was performed by three couples and a female soloist, and celebrates and honours the courage of the women, mothers, wives, sisters, and families left behind mourning their loved ones.
Destrooper included two pieces of ballet set to Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” – a visceral and sculptural work that holds the sensuality and rocking edge of this timeless song, as well as a piece that incorporated the songs “Sorrow,” “Time,” and “Is There Anybody Out There,” choreographed by Bruce Monk (former dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet). Both pieces were a fascinating blend of classic rock and classic ballet, underscoring movement, sound, and harmony.
Of the company dancers, Bethany Le Corre made a lasting impression with her beauty, grace, and exceptional presence on stage. Born and raised in Victoria, she trained at the National Ballet School and in the UK, before joining Victoria Ballet, where she is now dancing for the fourth season.
The costumes, and particularly the stunning pink dresses worn by the female dancers in Benny Goodman’s Sing Sing Sing number, designed by Jane Wood, were very skilfully created to emphasize not only the dancers’ craft, movements, and grace, but the overall spectacle of the performance. A native of Vancouver Island, Jane began designing for ballet 18 years ago and has been working with Ballet Victoria since 2007. Since that time she has designed and built virtually all of their mainstage production costumes as well as the odd prop and set piece.
In the second act, the performances, choreography, music, costumes, as well as lighting and projection design were united to create a particularly effective spectacle in 13 pieces. Incorporating tango, swing, tap, Bollywood, and other dance styles into the classical ballet dance vocabulary, this segment was an homage to Broadway-style Gesamtkunstwerk of performance. The second act opens and ends with “Roxanne Tango” and tell the story of a generational shift of star dancers with song, dance, and physical humour. The “Big Spender” number from Sweet Charity even includes some delightful drag performances.
Established in 2002, Ballet Victoria (BV) has grown its program and audience steadily each year, and is now the second largest ballet company in BC, after Ballet BC (17 dancers) and ahead of Ballet Kelowna (six dancers). In 2007, the Board invited Paul Destrooper to assume the role of artistic/executive director, and since this time he has pulled the company out of deficit and increased the company to ten dancers. The company currently presents four main-stage productions each season, a touring program, and two outreach programs.
All performances use narrative, humour, depth, and classical and popular cultural references to create works that attract a general audience. The current trend is to choreograph abstract movements to soundscapes and popular music, methods that appeal to a niche dance crowd, as well as audiences s not familiar with ballet. “Ballet Rocks” is presented October 23-25, 2015.