The plastic orchid factory bridges the gap between pop culture and ballet in _ post
For some, the world of classical ballet is an elitist, archaic art form that has nothing to do with our present day and age. For others, it is an art form of timeless beauty.
For James Gnam, artistic director and choreographer for the plastic orchid factory and former principal dancer of Ballet BC, the evening length quartet featuring himself and dancers Alison Denham, Natalie LeFebvre Gnam, and Bevin Poole, explores how to make it relevant today. Presented May 26, 27 and 28 at 8 pm with a matinee at 2:00 on the Saturday at the Scotia Bank Centre, _ post is a true collaboration between composers Kenneth Kirschner and Taylor Deupree, costume designer Kate Burrows, and lighting designer James Proudfoot.
The roots of bridging the gap between the spectacle ballet and our contemporary selves is reflected back to Gnam’s upbringing. In a phone conversation, Gnam explained how he went into dance and began the journey to _ post.
“I remember in Grade 2 acquiring enough math skills to figure out that I had more school ahead of me than I had been alive," Gnam said, recollecting his struggle in school while growing up in Victoria. “I started training at nine because the counselor at school suggested that I do an extra-curricular acitivity: either martial arts or ballet to focus myself as I was having trouble at school. I probably would have been diagnosed with ADHD. As I was already getting into fights at school, my parents put me in ballet." After six months, Gnam's ballet teacher at the Stages School of Performing Arts suggested that heaudition for the National.
Gnam got in, and his parents, both social workers and having three other children, supported their 10-year-old heading to Toronto, especially since Gnam’s talent and potential saw him get a full scholarship. “I was surrounded my amazing teachers in a creative atmosphere and because it was a private school, I did well academically.”
“I come from a working class family that has no real relationship to dance,” Gnam explained. “There is a disconnect between my life and my professional world. And the only way for friends and family to relate to what I do is to buy a ticket to consume.”
He wanted to address that disconnect creating a world that includes humour and “taking it all with a grain of salt.”
Gnam shared an example of a trope in the classical ballet idiom that gets filtered in _ post through the contemporary viewpoint . “In classical ballet, there are all these angry dead women created from folklore like the Willies in Giselle, “ Gnam explained. “ We have turned them into Geisha zombies. “
He continued with other examples: “When we think of a ballerina, we think of a woman in tights, pointe shoes and a tutu. We have created a tutu made out of corrugated plastic.”
Gnam’s ingenuity, talent and collaborative spirit as well as the stellar performance quality of the dancers will ensure an exciting evening. “There is a sense of mass productions as we train for years and years to get the same cookie cutter mentality. I’m investigating the popular ideas around ballet and how they resonate for us now.”
Tickets are $23, $18 CADA/Dance Centre members, $15 factory members (with $2 membership fee) www.ticketstonight.ca