CENTRE STAGE: Small Stage and Ballet BC join forces

Dance performances like no other will grace the grounds of Deer Lake park.

Ballet BC dancers have a long history of appearing in Dances for a Small Stage shows. Peter Smida, Maggie Forgeron, and Makaila Wallace, among others, have graced the small stage, but this is the second time the two companies have formally collaborated on a show. In 2010, shortly after Emily Molnar had taken over Ballet BC, she connected with others in the dance community, including Small Stage artistic producer, Julie-anne Saroyan, and their companies joined forces for the first time.

This time, the dancers are together as an ensemble, choreographing works on each other and driving the creative process and vision of the show. “The first one was more presentational, but this show is coming from the dancers,” said Saroyan. Among the pairings are SFU dance alumna Vanessa Goodman who is choreographing a work on Ballet BC dancers Gilbert Small and Christoph von Riedemann.

“It is such a pleasure to be able to work with Gilbert and Christoph,” said Goodman. “Their artistry and generosity are creatively inspiring and have fed the process in a really important way. It’s great to be able to work with new people as each time I get to engage with new artists it brings forth new questions about my artistic practice and enables me to be able to grow and evolve within each creation.”

With the show being performed to a smaller audience in an intimate outdoor setting, this provides an opportunity for Ballet BC dancers to perform in a different atmosphere and express themselves in a different way; they have more artistic control over the performance. Dancing in Deer Lake Park is quite different from dancing on the Queen Elizabeth Theatre stage: in this show there are no wings to run into, and no theatrical tricks to hide behind. “They have to rely solely on their choreography and this can be the most meaningful experience for a choreographer where their work can really shine,” explained Saroyan.

Goodman’s piece involves a large wooden set piece shaped a bit like an ice cream cone with the pointed end cut off. “This work is not only centred around the environment of Deer Lake Park,” explained Goodman, “but also has a very striking set that is influential in the structure and the engagement of the work. The set piece is built to amplify the environment and the soundscape.”

I look forward to seeing how this large sculpture is incorporated into the work, as Goodman explained that it’s not often she has the opportunity to work on a scale this large with a set piece. “It has been a remarkable collaboration to construct the set,” said Goodman. “Julie-anne is amazing! When I told her what I wanted to do, she said let’s find a way to make it happen. It’s thrilling for me as an artist to challenge my process in new ways, and the combination of this set piece and working with Christoph and Gilbert has done this.”

All of the dancers have been working on their pieces since February, and everyone met up for the first time on June 20 to put it all together. They had a few days to polish everything, as well as decide on the order of the show and the specific locations in the park for each piece. When interviewed, Saroyan hadn’t even seen any choreography yet. “I’m looking forward to seeing what they all come up with,” she said.

The format of the show is similar to that of other Small Stage shows, other than the outdoor venue. There are 10 short pieces of five to seven minutes each, and the audience is led around the park to a few different locations. The choreography is sure to be risky and exciting, but they’re hoping the weather will treat them well.

The audience is invited to arrive early and enjoy a barbecue in the park from Big Rock Brewery. This is sure to be an enjoyable evening of innovative dance in a laid-back environment, and I hope to see more collaborations between these two mainstays of the Vancouver dance scene.

This article originally appeared on Tessa Perkins’ blog.