Ballet Victoria dance mixes classic Bach, ’70s rock

Company staging weekend shows at McPherson Playhouse

Sandrine Cassini joins Ballet Victoria company for its latest production.

As the psychedelic refrains of Pink Floyd die off, a couple twirl centre stage, the woman’s body suspended and blowing to the sound of wind.

A moment of silence, and cue the finale.

Thumping beats fill the rehearsal space with new energy while ballet dancers do their hair and makeup to the rhythm. It’s the Saturday night ritual.

“The mysterious things women do to draw the men in,” explains artistic director Paul Destrooper, skirting across the room to add the footnotes. “They’re getting ready to rock.”

The playful number is set to the first movement from Karl Jenkins’ Palladio, the string compsition made famous by the De Beers diamond commercial, but mashed up with dance club beats by musical group Bond.

The tune is a fusion of pop culture and classical music – a good description for Ballet Victoria’s latest show.

Ballet Rocks: from Bach to Pink Floyd, devotes one half of the performance to each artist.

“People think ballet is going to be Nutcracker or Swan Lake, (but) ballet continues to evolve,” Destrooper says.

This performance incorporates both the classical and the contemporary, making it accessible to fans of either style and introducing them to the other. Ballet Rocks incorporates the work of six choreographers and is a collaboration with star Canadian cellist Denise Djokic. It showcases humour, drama, politics, themes of relationships and the harmony of groups moving together, explains Destrooper.

So why Bach and Pink Floyd? There’s no deep connection.

“I love Pink Floyd,” he says simply. “I choose music that I like. The dancers like this music and they never get to dance to it.”

As for Bach, he adds, many of the classical composer’s music is timeless. “The music has so much energy, they would be rock stars nowadays, bar none.”

Destrooper’s enthusiasm for both styles is obvious and he’s critical of those who define ballet too narrowly. When he pitched a dance based on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, funders responded by saying “Everybody does that, it’s an old piece of music.”

Showing no patience for such arguments, he emphatically says “it’s a beautiful piece of music.”

At the same time, his contemporary selections also go against the grain.

Many ballet companies are performing to soundscapes these days, he says. “Nobody’s doing music anymore.”

Back at rehearsal, Destrooper slips between the role of director, giving gentle tips from the sidelines, to dancing a duet. Lying on his back, he lifts company newcomer and acclaimed dancer Sandrine Cassini, who danced most recently with a company in Switzerland.

It’s the latest coup for a growing dance company.

Since taking over four years ago, Destrooper has rid the company of debt, taken on nine local dancers, grown the budget from $100,000 to $500,000, added a fourth show per season and launched a number of community outreach programs for students and seniors.

While most artistic directors don’t double as dancers, Destrooper says, “It’s a small company.”

But there’s room for Ballet Victoria to grow. “Eventually, I would like to bring the whole company to tour, not just the province, but nationally and internationally.”

rholmen@vicnews.com

Mark your calendar

• Ballet Victoria’s Ballet Rocks opens tonight (Oct. 7) at the McPherson Playhouse.

• Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. tonight and tomorrow, and 2 p.m. Sunday.

• Tickets are available at the Royal and McPherson theatre box offices, by phone at 250-386-6121 or online at www.rmts.bc.ca.

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