photo: Grant Robinson

Ballet Kelowna welcomes the new year with energizing mixed program

Winter will showcase two returning audience favourites and a world premiere

Ballet Kelowna ushers in the New Year with its presentation of Winter: a refreshing mixed program at the Kelowna Community Theatre on Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m.

A fervent, up-tempo response to the season’s icy chill, Winter features the thrilling tango-inspired world premiere of Cuatro Estaciones from Ballet Kelowna’s visionary artistic director and CEO Simone Orlando, as well as the return of two audience favourites — Wen Wei Wang’s dynamic work 1723 – Vivaldi, commissioned for Ballet Kelowna’s 15th anniversary season in 2017, and Orlando’s stirring and soulful contemporary dance piece Studies of Cash, inspired by the musical stylings of country legend Johnny Cash and his infamous 1968 concert at Folsom Prison.

“With Winter, we continue 2018/2019’s ethereal exploration of the seasons in all their powerful glory. These works mirror the nuances of nature’s cyclical rhythms by showcasing their qualities in inspired dance performance,” said Orlando. “We are overjoyed to present the remounting of two of Ballet Kelowna’s most successful works, as well as the tango-inspired new creation Cuatro Estaciones. We invite guests to combat their winter blues with our rejuvenating, upbeat evening of dance.”

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The program will open with the return of the Ballet Kelowna-commissioned 1723 ­– Vivaldi by one of the country’s most in-demand choreographers, Chinese-Canadian dance luminary Wen Wei Wang. Featuring extreme technical prowess from its sextet of dancers, with complex pointe work and powerful extensions, 1723 – Vivaldi is an evocative display of winter’s stark surroundings — bare, mesmerizing, and haunting. Set to a moving, minimalist re-composition of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons by composer Max Richter, with dancers dressed all in white, the piece is reminiscent of the season’s purpose within our natural surroundings — a time of restoration and transformation, and of the heady anticipation of the rebirth that is yet to come.

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The evening continues with the return of Orlando’s stirring and soulful contemporary dance piece Studies of Cash. Featuring the heartfelt and often humorous music of country legend Johnny Cash from his life-changing 1968 concert at Folsom Prison, the multi-faceted work explores concepts of confinement and imprisonment. While Orlando has always admired Cash, this piece was borne out of an unscheduled overnight stop in Merritt, B.C. due to a snowstorm in early 2007. Poor weather conditions on Highway 5 forced Orlando and her mother off the road. They found shelter and food at a local hotel where it was karaoke night. One of the patrons delivered a spirited rendition of Ring of Fire, sparking Orlando to pursue her own interpretation of Cash’s songs through movement. The end result was Studies of Cash, a breathtaking work that looks behind prison walls both manmade and self-imposed. The piece also reflects the isolation one typically feels during the cold months of winter.

To conclude the program, audience members will be transported to the infectious rhythms and colourful spirit of Buenos Aires, Argentina in the evocative world premiere of Cuatro Estaciones choreographed by Ballet Kelowna’s own Orlando. This tango-infused work breathes a vibrant passion into the evening’s program, counteracting the Okanagan’s overcast skies and cool temperatures, and will feature the dynamic talents of the full company performing fiery steps in stunning group formations and seductive duets.

The fresh interpretation of Cuatro Estaciones is inspired by and set to virtuoso composer Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires. The choreography is influenced by the bold innovativeness of Piazzolla, whose original compositions revolutionized the traditional Argentine tango by incorporating elements of jazz and classical music into a new style known as neuvo tango. Orlando, one of BC’s most renowned dancers and winner of the Clifford E. Lee Choreography Award, set forth to infuse ballet’s contemporary lines with the intricate, expressive elements of Argentine tango.

Newly arranged by Ukrainian composer Leonid Desyatnikov, Piazzolla’s masterful Four Seasons of Buenos Aires is contrasted with Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. Desyatnikov brilliantly layers the music from each piece representing opposing seasons from different hemispheres upon one another so that the two worlds become interconnected, offering a momentary bridge between the divide. In the same way, Orlando’s work masterfully blends two genres of dance, creating a dialogue between the two that blurs their distinction, and as a result forms an exciting, multi-faceted performance.

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