Ballet BC pushing into new territory

Company making more contemporary moves

- 3 Fold, presented by Ballet B.C., Nov. 18-19 at 8 p.m. at Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Tickets: $22.50-$70, visit www.ticketmaster.ca. Info: www. balletbc.com.

WITH the curtain raised on their 2011/2012 season, Ballet BC is continuing to move forward with its mission to become a leader in contemporary ballet on the local, national and international stage.

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Having launched the season in September with the National Ballet of Canada's 60th Anniversary Tour, followed by Alberta Ballet's performance of Love Lies Bleeding, featuring the music of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, local company members took to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre stage last night for 3 Fold, which will also be performed tonight and tomorrow evening. The show features both a world and Canadian premiere, as well as a piece by former Ballet BC dancer Simone Orlando.

"It's continuing in the direction that Emily (Molnar, artistic director) was going last year," says company member Livona Ellis. "But this show is more contemporary than our first show of last season . . . . I like this direction and this is what Emily is trying to do with the company - contemporary pointe work, contemporary ballet - is where she wants to take it."

A Ballet BC apprentice last year and now a full-fledged company member, Ellis is pleased to have substantial roles in all three 3 Fold works. Now 21, the North Vancouver resident got her start at age 11 at the Arts Umbrella, moving up the ranks, joining their junior then senior company, as well as completing the graduate training program. Ellis had the opportunity to work with Molnar, who was involved with Arts Umbrella in a variety of capacities, throughout her training.

"She was my role model, she still is," says Ellis.

Molnar went on to become artistic director of Ballet BC in 2009 and after Ellis completed her training at Arts Umbrella, Molnar asked her to come on board.

"It was kind of unreal. . . . It was lucky that I have this amazing company in Vancouver and it's run by someone that I know really well from growing up and who I admire. . . . It's amazing for my first job just to be so perfect and everything that I wanted in a company was there," says Ellis.

Orlando's work, Doppeling, featuring music by Johann Sebastian Bach, was created in 2009 for the company's inaugural choreographic series. It investigates the relationship of space and the body as well as makes a statement about gender.

"It's a really fun piece," says Ellis. "We're all supposed to look like mannequins and so all the men and women are in these sparkly, tight, full-length unitards. We all have the same shaped wig on, but different colours."

She describes the piece as a comment on fitting in, in society.

"There are three dancers who have blonde wigs and one of the dancers is trying to fit in with the two other blonde dancers but somehow she's different and then throughout the piece she kind of accepts her differences," she says.

Meanwhile the core dancers appear comfortable being the same.

"Then throughout the piece we kind of break out and it's a celebration because we realize it's okay to be like this. It's quite funny," she says.

Of the three works being presented, Ellis says Orlando's work is the most classically oriented.

"She's gone with the classical idea of pointe shoes, and then she mixes it up with some crazy movements," she says. "We get to whip our hair and do all this fun stuff . . . . It's very mixed with classical and contemporary but I would say it's definitely more contemporary."

The second 3 Fold piece, Diversion, a world premiere, features choreography by Robert Glumbek, from Toronto, and is strongly focused on movement. The highlight for Ellis is when she and another dancer create arm gestures based on the movements of the other dancers.

"We had to do it perfectly in synch next to each another. It's really cool to watch, it's kind of almost robotic, kind of weird.

We go through that sequence of material then at the end, we come forward and then we actually get to dance. . . . It's kind of a progression. The movement starts off a bit smaller and . . . by the end we kind of just bust it out," she says.

Like Doppeling, Diversion is en pointe.

The third work on the program, Parole Sospese (Words Suspended), is a Canadian premiere by Italian choreographer

Walter Matteini. The work draws from the canon of Renaissance Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533).

"There are moments in the piece that are very dry but it ends up being very funny," says Ellis.

Each of the 11 dancers featured has an important role. "My role throughout the piece is I start out searching and by the end I find what I'm looking for," says Ellis. "I have a duet with Gilbert (Small), it's a bit aggressive, but then I come out of it and I think I kind of find myself throughout the piece. It's very deep and layered."

For Parole Sospese, dancers don socks.

Ellis encourages community members, fans of dance or not, to take in a performance.

"I would say if you didn't know what dance is and dance isn't your thing, you'd still have a good time," she says.

"You'll get something out of it and it's entertaining and you'll learn something about dance and you're helping out the company at the same time, which is great."

Next up, Ballet BC presents The Nutcracker by the Alberta Ballet, Dec. 28-31 at Queen Elizabeth Theatre. The local company returns to the same stage March 8-10, 2012 for Walking Mad & Other Works, featuring a Canadian premiere, and two world premieres, one of which is a new work by Molnar.

emcphee@nsnews.com

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