Staging a province-wide tour of any production is no small feat, considering the logistics like securing rehearsal and performance space; accommodations; transportation of equipment, sets and people; and so much more. And when you consider a province as spread out as Newfoundland and Labrador, those challenges become even greater.
It takes many dedicated folks to make it all work. Luckily, for the upcoming provincial tour of Ballet Kelowna, in partnership with Neighbourhood Dance Works and the province’s Arts & Culture Centres, all hands are on deck.
The tour kicks off at the Arts & Culture Centre in St. John’s on May 12 and then continues throughout Arts & Culture Centres around the province, including Gander on May 16, Grand Falls-Windsor on May 19, Corner Brook on May 23, Stephenville on May 26, and Labrador West on May 30. (Click here for ticket information.)
Audiences will be treated to three riveting dance works during the 90-minute performance, starting with “taqeš” from Tla’amin Nation choreographer Cameron Fraser-Monroe, which tells the traditional story “Raven Returns the Water” set to music by Polaris-Prize winning composer and singer Jeremy Dutcher. Following is an interpretation of Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” by Guillaume Côté (a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada), featuring awe-inspiring lifts and choreography. Finally, there’s Alysa Pires’ fun and upbeat “MAMBO” featuring Latin, swing and jazz standards by Perry Como, Rosemary Clooney, Louis Prima and more that will have the crowd dancing in their seats. (Click here to watch a trailer for the show.) Audiences in St. John’s, Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor will also be treated to a curtain riser by NL’s own Kittiwake Dance Theatre, who will perform a piece from Janie Richard’s “I’nverno,” set to The Four Seasons from Vivaldi.
“Each of the three works are all ensemble works…so you get a chance to see that ensemble experience, which in a ballet company is always really nice, because of course with that discipline, you often have that almost virtuosic, choreographic technique that really shines in the repertoire. So all the lifts and all the partnering work and the really beautiful kind of synchronized structure of ballet choreography really comes through,” says Calla Lachance, Artistic Director of Neighbourhood Dance Works.
The show, Lachance adds, is one that all ages can enjoy, describing “Bolero” as a personal highlight and a “sitting on the edge of your seat kind of experience.”
“It’s just this phenomenal piece where the ballerina’s very graciously, but sort of in a risky kind of way, being tossed and maneuvered around the stage…There’s lots of lifts, tons of partnering work, and it’s very intricately choreographed.”
With the Ballet Kelowna tour being in the works since 2020 (and stalled twice due to the pandemic), Lachance says everyone is thrilled to finally be able to share the show with audiences throughout the province.
In anticipation of the event, Neighbourhood Dance Works has created an online exhibit of sorts, with independent artist contributions from Elisabeth Pardy Hartling (Mount Pearl School of Dance), Josh Murphy, Vanessa Cardoso-Whelan, Andie Bulman (article researcher), Kittiwake Dance Theatre members, and Rodrigo Iniquez (director of photography and film editor), looking at the history and future of dance and ballet in Newfoundland and Labrador, including the intriguing story of Charles Henry Danielle, who is said to have opened one of the province’s first dance schools. (Click here to check out the exhibit.)
“Those independent artists gave of their time to contribute to really elevating the presence of ballet in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Lachance says, also crediting the Archives and Special Collections at Memorial University’s QEII Library as an incredibly valuable resource.
Local businesses have also come on board to support the tour, including Johnny Ruth (who have included tickets to the St. John’s show as part of their Mother’s Day gift giveaway), Steele Hotels, and Parsons & Sons Transportation.
A number of local dance schools, Lachance adds, have also stepped up to give the dancers a “home” in each community by providing space for rehearsals and workshops, including the Lesley Oake School of Dance in Grand Falls-Windsor, Gander Dance Studio, Nomad Stages in Stephenville, Dance Studio West in Corner Brook, and DanSing Performance Studio in Labrador West.
“We’re really grateful to these dance schools for helping us,” Lachance says, “just making sure that the dancers are taken care of in the community.”
To learn more about the Ballet Kelowna tour, click here.
(Header photo: Abigail Wiens)