CENTRE STAGE: Pre-professional CatchingART Contemporary Ballet shows off aspiring talent in West Vancouver

Pre-professional dancers get an opportunity to show off their skills.

Dancing a famous pas de deux from Le Corsaire at the Pro Arte Gala, Ethan Ponton and Cassia Slager of CatchingART Contemporary Ballet Theatre looked ready to step into professional roles. Slager effortlessly performed her turns and jumps while Ponton lifted her with ease and showed off his own powerful jetés.

The pre-professional company, part of Pro Arté Centre’s training program, prepares aspiring dancers for roles in professional dance companies or for further professional training. Two of this year’s graduates are heading to Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, and one is off to the Rudra-Bejart’s ballet school in Switzerland. The dedication of these talented dancers was evident throughout the evening of both classical and contemporary works. Also featured in the show were younger students and those not yet part of the CatchingART group.

I thoroughly enjoyed the excerpts from Le Corsaire that were presented, as well as a beautifully romantic pas de quatre by Jules Perrot. Originally choreographed in 1845, its subtle beauty remains. Two younger dancers performed the always cute and crowd-pleasing Puss in Boots and White Cat pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty, and the first act of classical works flew by.

Act two was focused on contemporary pieces and featured live piano, violin, and vocals sharing the stage with the dancers. These musicians added to the emotional depth of the inventive choreography set to songs such as “Stay With Me” (Sam Smith) and “Cry Me a River” (Arthur Hamilton, not Justin Timberlake). We were also treated to a beautiful rendition of “Hallelujah,” paired with equally moving choreography.

The final number was a large group dance set to an instrumental version of the overplayed “Uptown Funk,” and while the choreography was playful and modern, I found it somewhat lacking in technical substance.

Before the classical ballet excerpts, the program notes, the ballet’s history, and a synopsis of the story were projected at the back of the stage, but after a few dense slides the wall of text was hard to get through. It would have been fine to leave that material in the program where we could read it at our leisure.

The almost full house at the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver cheered with approval as the dancers took their bows. While you could say that a lot of that applause is due to friends and family bias, it’s clear that these dancers have a solid base of training. With dedication to their craft, they’re going places.