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Janet Smith
Festival Overviews
Jacob's Pillow
United States
Beckett, MA

Ballet B.C. at Jacob's Pillow - a report of the audience response

by Janet Smith
July 28, 2013
Jacob's Pillow
358 George Carter Road
Beckett, MA 01223
413 243 0745
When audiences jumped up for standing ovations for Ballet B.C. at the recent Jacob's Pillow festival, they couldn't have known how significant the show of approval it was.

The performances were the company's first appearance at the prestigious showcase in two decades—and the culmination of a dramatic turnaround it's had since its near demise and financial collapse in 2008.

"It was a real motivation to keep doing what we're doing," said an elated Emily Molnar, the artistic director and former Frankfurt Ballet and National Ballet of Canada dancer who took the reins of the company and redirected its repertoire in 2009.

Until now, the revitalized troupe has been creating buzz only on Vancouver stages. But all that has changed this year with its first tour since Molnar took over. "We needed the time we've had in past four years to build the repertoire and relationships between the dancers," Molnar explained.

"It was important to get such a warm response from an international audience that sees so much dance, and then also to be in this environment where so much dance has taken place," Molnar added of Jacob's Pillow, now a National Historic Landmark.

The program she carefully chose for the company's return to the festival illustrated the unique mix of classical foundation and international, cutting-edge-contemporary repertoire that Molnar has brought on. Among her bold choices: Italian-born Jacopo Godani's A.U.R.A. (Anarchist Unit Related to Art), an abstract, warp-speed whirl of movement set to a throbbing electronic score; Nederlands Dans Theater dancer-choreographer Medhi Walerski's quirkily poetic Petite Ceremonie; and Molnar's own whimsical and absurdly funny Aniel, set to John Zorn's klezmer-driven Book of Angels.

"I tried to show diversity and range—and Canadian and international work," Molnar explains. "They were all pieces that had success in Canada."

Audiences and critics responded warmly to the mix, and all four of the company's four evening shows sold out. The Boston Globe wrote "dancers' commitment to every moment hold us in thrall", while the Berkshire Eagle called the program "markedly different, and immensely stimulating in an edge-of-your-seat kind of way."

Molnar reports that many people commented on the energy of seeing 15 virtuosic dancers on-stage at once. Through vigorous training and exposure to a host of visiting European and North American choreographers, the troupe is starting to make a name for both its technique and versatility. Corps standout Rachel Meyer even graced the Jacob's Pillow poster.

"Always what I've envisioned is to have highly, highly virtuosic dancers, and to see that they were responding to the performers was rewarding," Molnar said.

Earlier this year, Ballet B.C. hit Oregon's White Bird dance and California's Irvine Barclay Theater, and toured eastern Canada; after Jacob's Pillow, it opened the Festival des arts de Saint-Sauveur in Quebec on July 25 and 26, sharing the program with such troupes as Italy's Aterballetto, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal (now known as BJM), and soloists like Louise Lecavalier.

Molnar hopes the appearances, seen by many presenters, will spur even more touring for the company next year. For now, though, Ballet B.C. members are ready to return to their studios at the Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver to start building work for its next season—no doubt with a little extra spring in their steps.
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