Ballet Victoria fuses elegance, power and accessibility at the Sid

October 6, 2023

Think Ballet Victoria’s new production “is only rock and roll”? Think again.

Ballet Rocks is set to captivate audiences on Friday, October 27, in Courtenay. Presented by the Sid Williams Theatre Society as part of their Blue Circle Series, the production intertwines the elegance of ballet with the raw energy of iconic musical anthems.

According to artistic director Paul Destrooper, Ballet Rocks is not just a performance; it's an experience that bridges the gap between classical and contemporary ballet, breaking down barriers and inviting audiences to forge a fresh connection with dance through a soundtrack that spans generations.

“Ballet Rocks is a testament to the enduring power of artistic expression and music,” says Destrooper. “It’s an experience that will resonate with everyone. Grandparents will find themselves transported to their youth, while younger generations will discover the timelessness of music’s iconic tunes.”

The first section of the program features “best-of” excerpts from the classic pirate ballet Le Corsaire, stripped of its intricate narrative and distilled to showcase the dancers’ technical prowess and physicality. The program then moves into a piece based on Ravel’s Bolero. Born during the challenges of the pandemic, it explores the resilience of human connection in the face of isolation.

Following the intermission, the production really gets rocking as it delves into more modern territory. A work choreographed by artist-in-residence Andrea Bayne takes centre stage as she dances to Pink Floyd’s The Wall in a powerful commentary on unity, division and the human spirit. The program then embarks on a 30-minute exploration of relationships set to the unmistakeable sounds of ACDC, Queen, Paul McCartney, Britney Spears and more. This contemporary interpretation celebrates the diversity of human connections, offering a fresh perspective on the complexities of modern interactions.

Ballet Rocks is a very challenging, physical, hardcore repertoire, more in the traditional classical fashion with the pointe work, but also with a contemporary choreography in terms of subject matter, quality of movement and the spectacular partnering that Ballet Victoria is known for,” notes Destrooper. “It's very popular with the audience. It really brings ballet into this century and makes it more accessible [by] using music that relates to three generations.”

Established in 2002, Ballet Victoria is a professional ballet company with 12 to 14 dancers and four annual productions. As executive director, Paul Destrooper leads the charge in the company’s mission to redefine ballet’s accessibility, both on and off the stage and in all senses of the word.

In a bid to make ballet more accessible, the company has prioritized inclusivity as a cornerstone of their values.

“With our dancers, obviously, we represent various cultures and are very inclusive in terms LGBTQ2S…but that’s not the only focus of the organization. We want to organically be supportive of other cultures and art forms, so we collaborate with the musicians, with other choreographers, with poets.”

Just as importantly, says Destrooper, this commitment to inclusion extends to taking professional dance to communities that have historically lacked such opportunities.

“We want to showcase our work in places where professional dance is not usually presented. This means we go to smaller communities with a professional ballet performance, not compromising the product.

“The ability for us to tour and bring our work all the way to Port Hardy, Courtenay or different communities in BC, Canada and the US means that not only we're showcasing what we create here to other locations, but we are also creating an interest in dance – be it from the audience or from a new dancer…one that may not have been exposed to professional dance and know that’s something that interests them.”

Recognizing the challenges some patrons face in accessing traditional theatres and live performances, Ballet Victoria has increased accessibility in other ways by introducing ‘Tea for Tutu.’ This program provides complimentary admission to their home theatre venue that is fully accessible with room for about 50 wheelchairs. The program is also open to elderly patrons and those with young children and includes introductions to the dancers and tea and cookies after the performance.

Furthermore, Ballet Victoria’s forward-thinking approach embraces digital platforms by offering free access to their seasonal productions through a subscription service called BVideo.

While digital offerings serve as a crucial alternative, the true essence of Ballet Victoria thrives in live performances. “The connection forged between artists and audience during live shows is unparalleled.” Destrooper stresses that Ballet Victoria’s ethos of inclusivity, relevance and accessibility is not just a philosophy, but a palpable reality pulsing through every performance.

“We want to bring dance into the 21st century by making it relevant for the young artists who want to be dancers, for the audience [comprising] different generations and different cultures, for our artists by providing them with interesting work to perform that come from diverse artists and also for all the communities that we visit.”

Don’t miss this opportunity to experience an innovative production that unites the classical and the contemporary as it rocks to the beat of a new era in ballet.

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