Members of Ballet BC in Emily Molnar’s Walking Mad, coming to The Royal Theatre Jan. 30 and 31.

Back from the brink at Ballet BC

Transformed under a new artistic director, the company returns to Victoria with an international triple bill

When Ballet BC hits the Royal Theatre this week, local dance fans will have the chance to see contemporary artists at the top of their game perform work by some of the best choreographers on the international stage.

For anyone who can’t help but cheer for the underdog, Ballet BC’s triple bill is an opportunity to appreciate a great arts success story. The main character in said tale: Emily Molnar, former principal dancer, named Ballet BC’s artistic director at a time when the company was teetering on insolvency. Her vision: bring European choreographers to Vancouver and reinvent Ballet BC as a contemporary company.

“We’re not making work that’s exclusive to a few people. We’re making work that resonates hopefully with a larger group of people. Having said that, our mandate is to push the art form of ballet forward and to take a contemporary perspective on our art.”

All of the company’s dancers have at least 10 years of professional ballet training and a contemporary understanding of using a three-dimensional space. The methods of choreographing the works are also different from years past. She works with choreographers who also possess a questioning spirit and fascination with human potential to challenge dancers as they build movement based on thinking and feeling.

“In a lot of ways we’re asking them to build that bridge between the modern dance world and the ballet world and activate them very quickly. That’s what makes it exciting to watch these dancers. They have that range.”

Since 2009, Molnar has added more than 30 works to the company’s repertoire, a process in which she remains very involved at every level, from scouting emerging and established artists worldwide to logging hours in the studio alongside dancers. Ballet BC is now sought after by such prestigious festivals as Jacob’s Pillow and presenters such as the National Arts Centre. The company was named one of 25 To Watch in 2013 by Dance Magazine and Molnar herself is being lauded for her bold vision, recently named Canada’s Dance Artist of the Year by the Globe and Mail, among a number of other distinctions.

But all the accolades haven’t imbued Molnar with a sense of ease over their current standing with audiences, reviewers and funders.

“Anything in life, when we move up, there’s a view down. That’s just a part of it: making sure we stay honest and we stay true and keep doing the work. This changeover that has happened in the past four years has been done with an incredible amount of dedication towards examining everything we’ve done to get to this point and everything we need to move forward.”

The key to her team’s success has hinged on their love for the art form at that ability to question every move they make. The peril in which Ballet BC found itself was a gift that drove the company towards reinvention, she said.

“Artists and arts organizations are flexible. We have to be. We have to be resourceful. If you’re going to think outside of the box, you have to be able to change things on a dime. … We’ve had a lot of support but it hasn’t happened miraculously. We are not going to lose it right like that.”

Ballet BC’s triple bill Jan. 30 and 31 includes Molnar’s 16 + a room, a piece that draws its inspirations from the poems of Emily Dickinson, set to a textured, electronic score by Dirk P. Haubritch, a composer she met while she was working at Frankfurt Ballet with William Forsythe. Joahn Inger’s Walking Mad set to Ravel’s Bolero will also take the stage. Tickets to the show, presented by Dance Victoria, start at $29.

Dance Victoria is currently amidst Dance Days and Night Moves, 10 days of free dance classes, contemporary dance performance and evening events. To find out more, or to purchase tickets for Ballet BC, visit dancevictoria.com.

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