Ballet Victoria goes off Broadway

The story of a young star joining a company and rising up to dethrone the aging lead.

Ballet Victoria artistic director Paul Destrooper.

Walking into a steamy room of beautiful men and women artfully throwing their bodies onto one another is a rather lovely way to spend an afternoon … now add jazz hands.

Just a day in the life of Ballet Victoria rehearsing for their upcoming show Ballet Off Broadway. It’s a story we know, and such a good one: the trials of an aging Broadway star [Amanda Radetzky] as a younger starlet [Andrea Robin Bayne] tries to make her way into the showgirl heavens.

If that sounds like art imitating life … “That’s why the dancers are having so much fun with it,” says principal dancer Bayne. “Of course it’s so close to some of the realities you see everyday, and we’re actually able to perform it. Ballet is beautiful and dramatic … I definitely have a thicker skin now.”

Bayne’s tiny body is curled up in an office chair with what one would assume are uncharacteristically hunched shoulders. “We all sit like this.” Or not.

Ballet Victoria is the only professional company in Victoria.

“This is their life,” says artistic director and executive director Paul Destrooper.“They work from 9-4 from the beginning of October until the end of May.”

“August!” Bayne is quick to correct.

The fact is, not everyone can become a ballet dancer and far fewer can become professionals. No matter how good your plié looks in the steamed up, hand cleared, bathroom mirror, there are physical and psychological limitations. No question, the passion has to be there. A dancers life is regimented, sometimes thankless and reliant on audiences.

“I love classical ballet, the challenge of it, but you’ve got to get bums in seats,” informs Bayne. “It’s fun to do contemporary work. It’s more free. And I like to make different groups happy.” When asked about moving between the contemporary and the classical she adds, “It’s definitely difficult. I’m glad we go from classical to contemporary. I think moving the other way would be much more difficult. Your centres of gravity are just so different.”

“It’s good to show the audience some moves they know and mix it with some really difficult on-point work,” Destrooper adds.

Attending the rehearsal was breathtaking and a bit humanizing in its pre-perfection. Those who see the finished work will note the smooth transitions and careless movement. Not so a week before the show.

Perhaps it was the prying eyes, pen in hand, but Destrooper was also far gentler than what one might expect of an artistic director. No ballerina fodder here and apart from a few guiding words “Your hips are awkward!”, “Slow down, you’re moving too fast!” No flare-ups.

Check out Victoria Ballet’s performance of Ballet off Broadway at McPherson Theatre Oct. 5, 6, and 7. Bayne will also be sharing one of her lesser-known talents. She’s going to sing! Tickets at rmts.bc.ca. M

— By Colin Cayer

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