In James Whale’s notoriously camp 1931 rendition of Frankenstein, the undead monster staggers clumsily from his operating table towards his maker, his grotesque appearance belying a gentle nature.
It may seem odd at first glance, then, that artistic director Paul Destrooper chose the ungraceful monster as his protagonist for Ballet Victoria’s season premiere this weekend at the McPherson Playhouse.
“I love movies, I love pop culture and different music styles,” Destrooper says from his office above St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. In the adjoining studio, a dozen ballet dancers stretch, plié and brisé as they prepare for the three-day run of Frankenstein, choreographed by Destrooper.
“I like to mix up (those genres) together. Sometimes, when people hear the concept, they think it’s not going to work, but you can actually make the transitions seamless.”
When Destrooper first arrived at Ballet Victoria five years ago, he was working with eight dancers and an $80,000 budget. Now, the non-profit company retains a steady ensemble of 10 to 12 dancers and provides an ambitious four-show season thanks to steady donors and a few innovative cost-saving measures.
“It’s not that I want to do everything, but choreography is expensive,” he says. “Ballet is like opera, it’s like the symphony, they are art forms that are expensive. … You need weeks and weeks of rehearsal to put a show together.”
From Oct. 25-27, Ballet Victoria takes the conventional story of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and combines elements of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and dancing graveyard spirits from the classic ballet Giselle with a common love story weaving through two acts.
“Giselle was the original zombie ballet,” Destrooper says.
The dance troupe is joined by the Victoria Symphony and Joey Pietraroia on Dec. 28 and 29 for The Gift, a story told to the music of The Nutcracker at the Royal Theatre.
In the new year (March 22, 23), dancers shake off the winter blues with The Rite of Spring, a mix of classical and contemporary dance created by choreographer Bruce Monk to Stravinsky’s well-known score. Expect a West Coast flavour with passionate and fierce dancing, says Destrooper.
The final show of the season, also choreographed by Destrooper, is Carl Orff’s Camina Burana on May 30 and 31 at the Royal Theatre. Combining live music and a choir, the show promises to entertain all audiences.
“We have an amazing product, and one of the toughest things is to get people to come to the show,” Destrooper says. “But once they do, they want to come again.”
One of Ballet Victoria’s proudest achievements, he says, is how the company remains anchored in the local community and economy, drawing from a rich professional arts scene in the Capital Region.
“We create everything here in the community, essentially. There’s a lot of talent here, and I bank on that quite a bit.”
Destrooper urges resistant theatregoers to take a leap of faith and experience modern and unexpected ballet.
“We don’t have a massive production value, the artwork therefore has to be even greater. The dancers are stunning, the show is entertaining and accessible, but at the same time has depth. You’ll see some amazing dancing.”
For tickets and membership information, visit balletvictoria.ca.