Audience goes Gaga for Ballet B.C.

Home court advantage: devoted fans pack Q.E. for Program 3

Shifting constellations. Photo: Michael Slobodian

Ballet BC (BBC) wrapped up its 2016-2017 season with an extra dollop of indulgence for its devotées. Program 3, running May 11-13), featured not just one, but two world premières, Israeli choreographer Emanuel Gat’s Lock and a witty new work, Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming, choreographed by the company’s own artistic director, Emily Molnar.

Also, not just one but two intermissions. That may seem a bit over-the-top for a 120-minute bill with very minimal set and costume changes. Makes sense, though, given the mutual loyalty of the BBC and its clannish fan base; that much the more opportunity for audience members to pledge support, subscribe to next season, bid on a fundraising silent auction and admire each other’s finery.

Impressive range of couture, too, in the QE lobby: hunky spornosexuals in flamboyant Sgt. Pepper epaulettes, hypermobile teens in sparkly leggings, star-struck little girls in tulle, matrons in taffeta (or brocade, if Chinese), tweedy beardniks – a whole gamut of Vancouver arts patrons.

For an extra dose of crowd-watching, opening night offered a pre-show talk with Gat and Molnar. One audience member asked each choreographer what turned out to be a telling question: do you conceive of a work as a whole or as a modular set of tableaux?

Gat said he tries not to pre-map a program, but rather lets the movements and groupings grow more organically in sequence, taking his cues from the dancers’ skills and instincts.

Molnar, for her part, visualizes discreet scenes, routines and layouts, which she then assembles – “like Leggo” – into an aesthetically satisfying overall structure.

It shows in their respective Program 3 offerings. With music and lighting, as well as choreography, by Gat himself, Lock features a dozen BBC dancers plus a quartet of apprentices.

They ebb and flow in amorphous groupings to an atonal score. Spotlights shift from frontal to overhead to side illumination, blazing or fading, changing hues and occasionally blinking out altogether.

One thing leads to another, sure enough, (or “grow[s] organically,” in Gat’s phrase), but without much sense of coherence. It’s a bit like goggling at a lava lamp; mesmerizingly spacey, but why?

For all the whimsy of its title and premise, Molnar’s Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming presents a much tighter vision. It’s all about nested subjectivities and worlds within worlds.

In her program notes, Molnar sets the tone with an epigraph: “I have within me all the dreams of the world.” The line is from Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, whose artistically motivated, deliberately self-induced schizophrenia entailed some 79 distinct “heteronyms” – fully fleshed-out identities who fought amongst themselves in furious literary debates and figured as dramatis personae in each others’ writings.

In Keep Driving, I’m Dreaming Molnar makes do with a much more modest cast of characters: just eight star Ballet BC dancers who gather and disperse in shifting constellations. A “dreamer” may drift across the stage, beguiled – or beset – by other figures enacting a tableau of reverie or nightmare. But then the scene reconfigures before our eyes, with dream figures morphing into dreamers and vice versa.

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