Ballet Victoria has spent the last six weeks gearing up for their next production, Alice in Wonderland, hitting the stage on May 17 and 18 at the Royal Theatre.
In between morning technique class and the Tea for Tutu production — a dress rehearsal show where seniors are invited free of charge — Black Press got a sneak peak at what life is like for two of the 12 company dancers.
Andrea Bayne, principal dancer and Alice in the latest show, has been dancing since she was three years old. Originally from Halifax, N.S., Bayne grew up in Moncton, N.B., where she discovered her love of ballet at an early age.
She’s been with Ballet Victoria for 11 years and loves being able to wake up everyday and do what she loves despite the rigours and constant training.
The 12 dancers train tirelessly from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday with an hour-and-a-half technique class every morning.
Banye says that while the newest production isn’t quite finished yet, she’s excited about the added challenge of learning the choreography in the week leading up to the show.
“We definitely have a lot to do in a short amount of time,” she says, admitting that it makes her slightly nervous. “But it’s also kind of exiting because it keeps it fresh and you really have to make sure you’re focused during the day.”
Having been dancing for the majority of her life, Bayne finds it pretty easy to pick up new choreography but says it can be mentally draining to be keyed in for seven hours of the day.
“It’s different if you’re learning old [moves] because you can sometimes be a little sidetracked, your body remembers the movement,” she says. “When you’re learning a new ballet, every step is new, every facial expression is new and you need to be focused in rehearsal from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.”
In contrast to Bayne’s years of experience, this is Tymin Keown’s first season with the ballet. After moving away for three years to attend the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, the Victoria native is glad to be back in his hometown doing what he loves.
Playing a caterpillar turned butterfly, Keown’s character is very curious about Alice, who eventually helps him through metamorphosis to spread his wings.
“My favourite part of the show would be the pas de duex with Andrea,” he says. “It’s very challenging but also rewarding when you do it well.”
Keown started dancing when he was 15, which seems a little late in the dance world, but according to Bayne, men can get away with starting late as they don’t do as much point work.
“I think women and girls need to start a little early because of the point work, they need to have the strength in their feet to just be able to wear the shoes,” he says.
Keown was dancing at Stages Performing Arts School in Victoria when Paul Destropper, Ballet Victoria’s artistic director, came to teach a master class and mentioned the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School to him.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, OK, I’ll think about it,’ and then I decided to go and that kept me on this journey,” he says. “Paul definitely had an impact on my career that he probably didn’t think he did — I don’t even know if he remembers he did this.”
The feeling Keown got while on stage is part of what hooked him.
“I don’t even know how to describe it but it’s almost like a feeling of not feeling, you’re just so in the moment and not thinking, you’re just out there,” he says. “The best way to put it is pure enjoyment.”
He knows that feeling won’t always be around and so Keown tries to savour every moment of every production.
“This isn’t a career that I’ll get to dance on stage for the rest of my life,” he says. “I’ve got to enjoy every second I have out there.”
For tickets to Ballet Victoria’s latest production of Alice in Wonderland visit balletvictoria.ca.
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