This week Ballet Victoria will premier a short piece commissioned explicitly for them by renowned Canadian choreographer Joe Laughlin.
Dance Victoria, which runs Dance Days, hired Laughlin with the purpose of debuting it during the annual festival and Ballet Victoria couldn’t be happier.
“This is our first time having Laughlin do a piece for us so it’s very exciting,” said Ballet Victoria artistic and executive director Paul Destrooper. “It’s hard to bring in choreographers because of the cost, and he’s very well-known.”
For Ballet Victoria, Laughlin has spun a winter tale, one which could help break the maddening routine of Victoria’s dark days. It’s a short piece called the White Waltz and it’s about 13 minutes in length, with two distinct parts. Part one is set to the Blue Danube by Strauss, part two is set to Chopin’s Nocturne.
“It captures that early magic of winter, the crisp air, the anticipation of the first snowfall, and the crystallizing of the ice, which comes through the piano,” Destrooper said.
White Waltz uses 10 dancers in all and isn’t without humour, which Laughlin is known for. Roller blades will help bring alive the charm of a frozen lake. The dance then moves to a pas de deux (duet) with Destrooper and Andrea Bayne, BV’s principal dancer.
White Waltz will run with as part of Laughlin’s 25th anniversary as a choreographer, along with three of his favourites, Harold, Billy, Stan and Jack, Left, and Dusk.
Show times are this Wednesday and Thursday (Feb. 6 and 7), 7:30 p.m. at McPherson Playhouse. Opening acts will be performed in the lobby by Victoria Academy of Ballet students on Wednesday and Victoria School of Contemporary Dance on Thursday.
Laughlin, who runs his own company, Joe Ink., visited for two weeks in October to work with the Ballet Victoria dancers for the White Waltz.
“It was a unique experience,” said Bayne, a Haligonian now in her fifth year with BV.
“It was my first time working with him and although there is always a new vocabulary with every choreographer, his movements are very specific.”
Laughlin is known for his gymnast-inspired stylings of contemporary and neoclassical ballet, which is to be expected. His ability to share his vision with the dancers also impressed Bayne.
“He has a way of making you realize that the movement is beyond just repeating and comes from a deeper meaning.”
For Bayne it was a story Laughlin put in her head, one for viewers to keep in mind.
“During the pas de deux I am stuck in the past, and Destrooper’s character tries to bring me into the future, but I don’t want to come. To present that, I fall on the end of notes, but he tries to bring me up to speed with action at the beginning of the notes.”
During its 10-day span the interactive festival offers a series of shows and dozens of free workshops throughout Greater Victoria.
Visit dancevictoria.com for a full schedule.
See a preview of Joe Laughlin’s 25th anniversary show here.