On Saturday, February 26, The Soraya presents its resident ballet company, Ballet BC, in a program from new Artistic Director Medhi Walerski of unusual depth with two works: GARDEN by Walerski and The Statement from Crystal Pite, both originally created for Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT). The program also includes a pas de deux from Walerski’s Romeo + Juliet; the full-length ballet was performed at The Soraya just prior to the pandemic shut down in March 2020.
Walerski danced at the Paris Opera Ballet before joining NDT in 2001. For more than a decade, he was an integral part of the company, contributing to the creative, innovative style it is famed for. Pite is NDT’s associate choreographer.
Walerski’s GARDEN is inspired by his admiration for the intricate and emotional interplay between strings and piano in Camille Saint-Saëns’s exquisite “Piano Quintet in A minor”. GARDEN was nominated by Dance Europe for Best Production.
GARDEN is a very special work to Walerski. In a Vancouver Stir Arts and Culture interview, he said, “It was challenging, when you love a piece of music so much, to find a way to relate to it — especially because it’s abstract. The piece marked a transition in my career when I stopped being a full-time dancer and there was a lot happening in my life. I wanted to connect to, I would say, the nectar of the movement…something more pure and more profound, and not be guided by a story…to extract or to filter all that is not necessary and really get back to the essence of movement.”
He added, “The pandemic has elevated the dancer’s relationship to their artistry. I think everyone is grateful for what we do, how precious our time in the studio is and how special our art form is in relation to everything else that is surrounding us. It created a bond and allowed them to have different conversations around what we do and what is the message we want to bring into the world and why is it important. And, what is art? And so I think that has made the group very strong this season, like a unified voice.”
In The Statement, Pite explores conflict of power through her distinctive and wildly inventive choreographic style. Originally created in 2016, four dancers move to a recorded script by Canadian playwright and close collaborator Jonathon Young. Locked in a battle for control, the characters have been tasked with fueling a conflict in a distant country. Tensions rise when they are asked to take responsibility for their actions.
Pite said in a Kennedy Center interview, “The Statement is a one-act play, with four characters locked in their own battle for control, with the morality of their actions: they have been tasked with fueling a conflict in a distant country. Character ‘A’ declares, ‘For generations they’ve been fighting. All we did was use it. We used it as an opportunity — the attacks — the — for investment.’ Now, being asked to take responsibility for their actions in order to exonerate their superiors, a conflict is rising within their department. The translation from verbal language into a physical language is direct and quite accessible. Using the rhythm of the text gives us structure in time. The dancers have to nail it, or the viewer gets split into seeing and hearing, the same way they would if a film is slightly out of sync with its sound.”
Founded in 1986, Ballet BC is The Soraya’s current resident ballet company. The collaborative and creation-based company based in Vancouver, Canada, has made a unique and valuable contribution to the development of contemporary dance both at home and around the world. In 2019, the company was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production for their tour to Sadler’s Wells in London.
Ballet BC presents a diverse repertoire of Canadian and international work from the late 20th and early 21st centuries, including choreography by William Forsythe, Cayetano Soto, Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, Johan Inger, Medhi Walerski, Ohad Naharin, Crystal Pite, Company 605, Jorma Elo, Wen Wei Wang, Itzik Galili, Serge Bennathan, Walter Matteini, José Navas, Emanual Gat, Emily Molnar and more, and is deeply committed to the creation and performance of new works. The company actively fosters collaborations that support artists, choreographers and audiences alike, furthering the boundaries of contemporary dance.
Tickets for Ballet BC start at $41 and are available at thesoraya.org and by calling 818-677-3000. The Soraya is located at 18111 Nordhoff Street, Northridge, CA 91330.