From the skill, precision and elegance of ballet and the innovative, boldness of contemporary dance, Ballet BC is a contemporary ballet company that blend the two styles to create unique and powerful dance.
Bringing their triple bill across the UK for the first time, I spoke to Artistic Director of the company Emily Molnar who built a relationship with Ballet BC ever since she was a child training at the National Ballet School. “I used to watch the company and they were known for doing new work as one of the main contemporary ballet companies in the country,” she said. “I danced at the National Ballet in Canada and then Frankfurt Ballet under the direction of William Forsythe, then in 1988 I came back to Canada to dance with Ballet BC.” After leaving the company to go freelance and choreograph Emily returned to the company to become their Artistic Director.
“I got to know the company from far away at first and had an enormous amount of respect for what it was, and so by the time I took over the company I had a relationship and certain care for the company,” she explained.
Emily describes the company as a ‘creation based dance company’. “We really pay attention to the past in the sense that we have classical ballet-trained dancers, however, our work really is about today,” she explained. “We are always building a new vocabulary each time we are creating a work, so the training is important as it gives us access to the articulation of space and expression of the body but it isn’t traditional ballet that we dance on stage.”
“I think it goes back to the creative element, we are a collaborative hub where many choreographers from around the world, so not just Canada, are able to come and make a work in a way as if it is their own company. It is a place to research and make art,” Emily said. “We really come together as a collective of individuals for the purpose of asking questions around what contemporary ballet is. What is dance? What are we dancing? Why are we dancing? And how are we making work? We do that with a range of different collaborators.”
Bringing the company to the UK for their first ever UK tour, it’s a triple bill of three pieces all choreographed by females. Crystal Pite, Sharon Eyal and Emily Molnar herself are bringing bold and striking dance pieces to stages across the regions. “They weren’t in a program from the beginning and they were actually different pieces that existed at different times,” Emily said. “When I bring in a choreographer I look at them for different reasons; their craft, their ideas of what dance can be and also how they work with artists. Sharon and Crystal are both such important voices right now and one thing that is important to me is that they are all women.
“Obviously it is a heated conversation in the dance world about female choreographers and I think there is no lack of talent,” Emily expressed. “It is the question of making sure women find opportunity. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I do know as an Artistic Director and a woman myself, if there is an interest for a female choreographer, I want to be a company that can make that happen.”
The three pieces, 16 + a room choreographed by Emily herself, Solo Echo (Crystal Pite) and Bill (Sharon Eyal) were chosen for the UK for their different voices. “We want to be able to have a conversation with our dance that is global,” Emily said.
“It is really about trying to get dance its fullest platform for discussion.”
“I think it’s amazing to have two Canadian voices with myself and Crystal and it’s fair to say that she is not only one of our leading Canadian choreographers but one of the most exciting choreographers today,” Emily explained. “With Sharon, she has such a unique point of view on the expression of the body. You don’t even know what world you’re in when you’re in her work and she just takes you somewhere. I’ve often thought you feel like you’re dealing with something very primitive and futuristic at the same time, you’re absorbed in this sensory world that is so captivating and so delightful.”
There are many contemporary ballet companies out there but what sets Ballet BC apart is that it is not just about what they’re making, but how they’re making it. “It is the process of art-making and day to day questioning, the way we develop artists and create work is very much what is at the heart of the company,” Emily said. “It is a collaborative endeavour and this idea of voices, that people can lead a company as individuals but be very much part of a group.”
At the heart of Ballet BC is the way they nurture their dancers and prepare them for the entirety of their career. “When someone is asked to dance something they are not just a blank canvas, they are a human being asked to interpret or express very complex ideas and it is a two-way conversation,” Emily explained. She emphasised that if a dancer wants to stay in the industry to become a teacher or choreographer, as a company it is important to make sure the dancer has the tools, resources and confidence so that they are empowered to make those steps.
Whether it’s Emily’s piece that blends pointe work and contemporary dance with her fast-paced choreography, Crystal’s powerfully romantic work that shimmers in snowfall or Sharon’s daring piece that showcases the dancers’ extraordinary skill, Ballet BC’s triple bill showcases the very best of the company’s talent and skill.
Opening at Sadler’s Wells ahead of a tour across the UK, Emily can’t wait to take Ballet BC across the country. “The more we have these opportunities to take our work to varied audiences challenges us to go deeper and learn more about the work,” she said. “It is the right time for us and we are super excited to be sharing our work with different communities.”
All tour dates and information can be found online here.