Ballet BC opens its 2018-19 season with a triple bill featuring the first Canadian performance of William Forsythe’s Enemy In The Figure, Medhi Walerski’s Petite Cérémonie, and the world premiere of the latest work by Artistic Director Emily Molnar. Tickets and details at www.BalletBC.com
Emily shares her thoughts about the program in this interview.
October 3, 2018
Why do you consider Enemy In The Figure a masterwork of contemporary dance?
William (Bill) Forsythe created Enemy In The Figure in 1989 for Frankfurt Ballet, but when you see it today it’s still ahead of its time. It is a beautiful piece of architecture on stage, and compositionally, all of the components – movement language, theatricality, set and costumes, the score (composed by Thom Willems, one of Bill’s long standing collaborators) – come together with such a beautiful sense of counterpoint.
Enemy is invigorating to watch. Bill pushes the boundaries of relationships between body and space, stage and audience, and tries to shift our assumptions, yet pay tribute to classicism. He’s taking the value of all these things, stretching them into a large trajectory, while never sacrificing one for the other. He doesn’t reduce classicism in order to find something more contemporary and he doesn’t negate a contemporary point of view in order to research the potential of classicism.
What ideas inspired Forsythe when he created Enemy?
Bill was very interested in the works of architect Daniel Libeskind, and the idea that if you put a chair in the middle of the room, there are all these different trajectories – pathways – of where that chair could potentially go in space. If you draw those out from the chair, the room would be full of possibilities. He was also influenced by the work of Rudolf Laban and his research of the body and space.
You have wanted to bring Enemy to Ballet BC since you became the company’s artistic director ten years ago. Why is now the right time?
Enemy is a big piece – it requires a curious mind, technique, stamina and a very strong understanding of three-dimensional space. I feel like now, we have artists who are physically able to ‘eat up’ the choreography and have the intelligence to take on the virtuosity of Bill’s improvisational technologies (tools created by Forsythe for developing movement potential).
There is fixed choreography, but there’s also a great deal of responsibility for the dancers to be in improvisational states. Bill’s improvisational technologies create a way of thinking, which creates a certain kind of timing that is different than when something is known. The state of improvisation has a surprise element to it, but it also comes with questions and risks: How do you phrase it? How do you compose it?
I wanted to bring this work to the company this season as a way of celebrating the past ten years!
Your world premiere (currently untitled) is set to three songs from Jimi Hendrix’s Blues album. It’s inspired by the music of the blues and draws on the idea of finding one’s voice. Describe your research process with the dancers.
We started by looking at the time in which the recordings of those songs were made. A lot of really important moments in our global history took place then, including the landing on the moon, Woodstock and Martin Luther King. We looked at the Gutai group, a radical art collective that began in post-war Japan, and the ways in which they were working. We looked at certain paintings and pieces of architecture and their relationship to concepts like the ephemeral, the human machine, corruption and shadow. We started to examine where the dancers’ own personal story lines sat inside of those concepts and then we started to build a collective understanding and a language for the work. The dancers have created, in most cases, all of the movement base, and then I have been assembling and pulling it apart and basically composing it. They really are truly collaborators with me on this piece.
Petite Cérémonie was created by Medhi Walerski for Ballet BC in 2011. Explain why this is a special piece in the company’s repertoire.
It was our first creation by Medhi and during the early days of the renewal of Ballet BC and my position as artistic director. A handful of our dancers today were part of the original creation and the piece has a lot of their personalities inside of it. When I watched the run-through in the summer, it brought tears to my eyes and I think it was the same for the dancers. It’s retrospective and carries a certain nostalgia to it, but we don’t feel like we’re going backwards. The piece is very human, as is all of Medhi’s work, and is still very fresh. I know there are now more companies performing it, and that makes me excited for Medhi and for us, knowing that we helped to make that happen.
As a choreographer, your primary medium is the body. What part of the body fascinates you and why?
I think it’s the way the mind and the heart interact through the body in space. I don’t think it’s one aspect of the body, rather, it’s the way the body is available to exercise what your imagination wants to say.