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Emily Molnar: All Fired Up for a U.S. debut written by Philip Szporer

The ballet world is no stranger to intrigue and reversals of fortune, just as success stories are coveted among its passionate practitioners and fans. All of these elements are lively components in Ballet British Columbia’s particular trajectory. In early 2009, after nearly 25 years in existence, the company was facing bankruptcy. Once noted for its “singular sense of style and vision,” Ballet BC had laid off its artistic director, dancers and staff. The future of the contemporary ballet company was bleak. After some restructuring, in July 2009, the announcement of a new artistic director, Emily Molnar, breathed new life into the once in-demand troupe. Molnar is a former Ballet BC principal dancer, and was a soloist under director William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt for five years, as well as a dancer in the National Ballet of Canada’s corps de ballet for four years (1990-1994). Today, the Vancouver, British Columbia-based company has not only bounced back, it is building on strength to strength with new works entering the repertoire, audiences are streaming back, and touring dates are booked. Dance Magazine in its January 2013 issue called the company “physically rigorous, dramatically solid, and truly

Ballet BC

May 11, 2013 at 8pm



tally she instills a collaborative feeling in all facets of the institution. And, in a singularly significant spin, she believes “in the power of laughter in the room.” When Molnar first worked at Ballet BC, starting in 1998, she soon became a star within its ranks and a crowd favorite. In her new position as artistic director, she’s a recognized name and face for the company. What she’s promised is “contemporary ballet rooted in classicism, and pushed to the boundaries.” The shift has been away from charming fairy tale confections to a definitive focus on innovation and sharp, abstract contemporary works for the roster.

Petite Cérémonie by Medhi Walerski

photo by Michael Slobodian

contemporary.” As Executive Director Branislav Henselmann has stated publicly, “Ballet BC is one of a very few companies in the world doing tremendously exciting contemporary ballet work reflecting the art of dance today.” Emily Molnar


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Key to the new vision that’s firing up the company of 17 dancers is Molnar herself. It’s been said that as a director she is “tenacious, dedicated, and tireless,” and perhaps more fundamen-

As for the Ballet BC dancers, they have all been trained for a minimum of 10 years before dancing professionally. Molnar salutes their fabulous skill, and multi-faceted capabilities, and says they are a passionate and generous bunch “willing to dive into the work.” In a recent interview, she commented, “Each dancer must have a hunger to learn, work hard, take risk and be challenged. They are able to take on this sense of diversity and virtuosity because they are classically trained ballet dancers who have a strong understanding of contemporary dance.” Molnar, born in Regina, Saskatchewan, is also an accomplished chorecontinued...

IRVINEBARCLAYPRESENTS the 2012-13 International Contemporary Dance Series

upon his prolific 19 volumes of “Book of Angels”, I was instantly drawn by the remarkable rhythms, expression and virtuosity in the music.” Working closely with the artists of Ballet BC in creating the piece, she adopted a means of filtering “layers of improvisation and compositional work. We created a movement language that speaks to joy and a world that is rich with the whimsical and the absurd.” The Vancouver Sun has praised “Aniel” for its “seriously fun dancing, brilliantly built to the music’s down beat,“ with the dancers creeping and shuffling in huddles or prancing, lurching and tumbling across the stage.

A.U.R.A by Jacopo Godani | photo by Michael Slobodian

ographer, though she clearly made a policy decision to not hold sway when it comes to creating new pieces for the company. Molnar is interested in what she calls a “curated” company, where she commissioned a lively and current group of Canadian and international choreographers, including Johan Inger, Aszure Barton, Jorma Elo, and José Navas, to add to the celebrated roster. She is “unafraid to show audiences a variety and diverse range of work,” says Navas, who as resident choreographer recently created an updated version of “Giselle” for the company. For its Irvine Barclay debut, Ballet BC will be presenting a program showcasing two gifted European choreographers, France’s Mehdi Walerski (“Petite Céremonie”) and Italy’s Jacopo Godani (“A.U.R.A. - Anarchist Unit Related to Art”), as well as Molnar’s “Aniel”. “A.U.R.A. (Anarchist Unit Related to Art)” is an energetic explosion of dance highlighting the virtuoso dancers, with music by the Munich-based experimental industrial-electro duo 48nord. Dance Series support provided by

The Cheng Family Foundation Kari and Michael Kerr Sonnet Technologies

The piece, originally commissioned by Ballet Mainz in Germany, has had many sections re-choreographed by Godani for BC Ballet. The Georgia Straight calls A.U.R.A. “abstract and dizzying in its complexity—sophisticated but edgy.” Walerski created the elegant and witty “Petite Cérémonie,” set to music by Mozart, Puccini, and Vivaldi, in 2011 for the company. The choreographer said he was intent on developing a piece about a group of people searching “for the right space, the perfect balance. As a starting point I asked the dancers to tell me what ‘life in a box’ meant to them. This is what came out.” The Vancouver Observer commented, “The comedy, romance, suspense and visual stimulation made it a perfectly liberating performance.” Molnar’s own “Aniel” is a joyful, whimsical full-company piece, rooted in American avant-garde composer and saxophonist John Zorn’s “Book of Angels”, performed by the Cracow Klezmer Band – an accessible collection of short improvisatory arrangements, many of which are named for angels in Jewish tradition, including Aniel. The name is derived from the Hebrew, which translates as “Joy of God” or “Grace of God”. Molnar has explained her attraction to Zorn’s “ethereal and lyrical” work: “When I came

Emily Molnar is an artist who is enterprising and arguably daring when it comes to the long-term goals of Ballet BC. The company’s concerts are not lacking in adventure, but Molnar imbues her vision with a keen perspective: “I want my audience to feel something, and receive something from the work [we do],” she says. It’s a focused approach that’s defining Ballet B.C.’s current success, and it tells us why we’re glad the company’s been reborn. Philip Szporer is a Montreal-based lecturer, writer and filmmaker.

Aniel by Emily Molnar

photo by Michael Slobodian

IRVINEBARCLAYPRESENTS the 2012-13 International Contemporary Dance Series

Ballet BC: All fired Up for a U.S. debut  
Ballet BC: All fired Up for a U.S. debut  

a movementum publication of Irvine Barclay Theatre written by Philip Spzorer