Ballet BC's Tilt: Johan Inger's Walking Mad plus two world premieres from Jorma Elo and Emily Molnar, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Oct 18 and 19, 8 p.m.
THE art of dance is a language spoken through the movement of body.
For Emily Molnar, artistic director of Ballet BC, it's a language she has spoken all her life and continues in her latest work, 16 plus a room.
"The fact that dancers within 10 minutes of not even speaking the same language can be dancing together and smiling and they are not even exchanging a language verbally, is an extraordinary thing that most people don't have an encounter with in their lives," says Molnar. "It's very exceptional what happens in dance, our entire instrument - our body, our mind, our soul- is called to action when we perform, when we dance, when we are in the act of dancing and I find that one of the most beautiful paths towards self-discovery and self-understanding that one can have."
The piece makes its world premiere in Tilt this weekend at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and includes North Vancouver dancer Scott Fowler.
Molnar says the piece is a kind of energetic reality of feeling displaced, things collapsing, changing and trying to begin, and things disappearing.
"I'm very much interested in more philosophical spaces when I create a piece, so it's very atmospheric," she says. "It's like if you put these 16 individuals into a room and the room starts to move, and it tips and it turns. I kept saying it's like they're in a glass jar and things keep moving around."
Molnar says it captures a spectacular moment in time, with neither a beginning nor an ending.
"It's this kind of idea that things don't stop all of a sudden," says Molnar. "This is happening all the time everywhere, art, so we just have to sit down and observe that."
The piece is a very textured landscape, she says.
"You step into a world and that world is very kinetic and very dynamic," says Molnar. "But it's an experience that's for sure."
Molnar provided several different art forms, including a collection of Emily Dickinson poems, writings by American installation artist Bill Viola and Art Objects by Jeanette Winterson, for the cast of 16 dancers to draw from.
"I really work with the dancers," says Molnar. "I'll often bring in a lot of images, a lot of text, that we start building our vocabulary, which means our choreography, from. So we build kind of a dictionary of words, an alphabet per se."
The dancers were also able to draw from Molnar's own personal experience.
"I just turned 40 this year and there's been a lot of discussion in my own self about aging and transition," Molnar says. "I had this feeling in me, like a sadness in my bones and I mean that in the most liberating way, not because I felt that I was arthritic or something but just more that time passes and you start to feel that history inside of your body, that notion that you know you really realize you don't have a lot of time and with that comes a huge liberty and celebration of what it means to be alive."
German composer, Dirk Haubrich wrote the music for the piece and is someone that Molnar has worked with before.
"He is a lovely man that I met when I was dancing in Frankfurt Ballet working with William Forsythe," says Molnar. "Many years later, I stumbled on the fact that he had become an incredibly well known composer for dance in Europe. So I picked up the phone and said, 'Hey Dirk would you be interested in working with me on this next piece,' so I was so excited when he said yes. I knew I wanted to do that and when I secured that I started there."
Molnar's love of ballet started from a young age when she was living in Regina, Sask.
"I was dancing around the house a lot, my grandmother said to my mom, 'You really should put her in some dance classes.' So I started creative movement when I was five, took my first ballet class when I was six and then I was leaving home when I was 10 to go to the National Ballet School," she says.
From there, Molnar's career in ballet took flight. She was invited to join the National Ballet of Canada before she turned 17.
"I got into the National Ballet of Canada because Bill (Forsythe) was doing a new piece and he saw me as an apprentice on the side and said I want her and so
I got into the company and that was my first piece I got to perform with him which was great," says Molnar. "I was the only apprentice and most of the other dancers were all soloists and principal dancers so it was quite a coup that I got into the company and I got into this piece."
But her time at the National would last less than four years.
"Three and a half years later he came back and he said, 'Would you like to join me in Frankfurt,' and I said, 'Well of course.' I mean it's an invitation that was just, it changed my life and it has defined my perspective on dance enormously," she says. "It was an extraordinary period of time, Frankfurt Ballet, working under Bill and he's a great mind and he's still very much creating some of the most important work in dance right now today."
Molnar joined Ballet BC in 1998 and went on to become the artistic director in 2009. She has choreographed four pieces for the company, including her latest, and says choreography has intrigued her since one of her first performances when she was 12.
"It was a natural evolution for my learning curve. I was working with a man who was at that time the director of the Dutch National Ballet, Rudi van Dantzig, and he created a new work for us," says Molnar. "At that moment, that ability to converse and create the work myself, it gave me such a sense of responsibility and ownership and individuality and I knew in that moment that the creative process and building work and working with choreographers, was my passion."
She says it became a natural step she wanted to try on her own after having worked with many different people and creating a variety of works.
"It's something I love to do but I have to be honest, I also love being a part of other people's processes as much, so that's where I knew being a director was something that was my calling because it wasn't just about my work it was really about the potential of dance and the creative process and I participate in that as a director and as a choreographer," says Molnar.
Being the artistic director can also be one of the most challenging aspects of the choreography process.
"That always has made it a little more challenging for me to go into the studio, to find research time on my own, when I'm also working on other people's work, having a load administratively that's quite dense," she says. "I wear many, many hats here, I work quite a few hours a week. So to be able to carve out that time where it's just about me and my piece as I would have before I became the artistic director, that doesn't happen as easily and so that's my challenge to find that balance."
But Molnar says having worked with the same group of dancers the past four years has become an intimate process.
"I've been able to go through four processes and I've never had the joy of that kind of experience in any of my other choreographic opportunities. I mean I've had lovely dancers to work with but they haven't been the same group four times in a row," Molnar says. "This has allowed me to take more risk, to challenge my ideas, to trust them because I'm working with first of all an incredible group of artists who want to go there, but also because they trust me, I trust them, I've been able to go to different places I haven't been able to research in some of my other pieces, so I feel very excited about that."
Choreographers working on 20 to 25 minute pieces are given about a threeweek rehearsal period, which is then followed by the company rehearsing for two more weeks and the choreographer back for another week. In all, Molnar says the whole process takes about six weeks.
"I'd say on average, it's a very conservative statement, that every minute of choreography takes on average about six hours," she says.
Whether it's a choreographer that she wants to work with or something the audience would really love, Molnar always tries to have ideas brewing for upcoming shows. Ballet BC's next venture partners ballet with a Canadian music icon.
"We have Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, which is a wonderful piece by Alberta Ballet in collaboration with Sarah McLachlan," Molnar says. "We are very excited that we are able to bring this to Vancouverites because Sarah is obviously such a proud artist in this province and in this country."
Fumbling Towards Ecstasy runs from Nov. 14-16.
Ballet BC will also be doing holiday classic The Nutcracker, from Dec. 28-31 and Grace Symmetry starts off their new year from Feb. 20-22, 2014.
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