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One big, thick char­coal car­pet is un­furled along the back of the Bal­let BC re­hearsal stu­dio, with dancers’ feet sink­ing slightly into it as they move across its soft sur­face. An­other rug sits, rolled up at one side, with an­other per­former emerg­ing from in­side it.

It’s im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous that the com­pany is em­bark­ing on a new ad­ven­ture for its sea­son-open­ing per­for­mance. And it be­comes clear its mem­bers have en­tered the sur­real, com­edy-touched, and oh-so-hu­man world of Swedish-born chore­og­ra­pher Jo­han In­ger. His pres­ence also ex­plains the laugh­ter rip­pling reg­u­larly through­out the room as the for­mer Ned­er­lands Dans The­ater dancer and one­time Cull­berg Bal­let artis­tic direc­tor works on the de­tails of his piece B.R.I.S.A.

“He has in­cred­i­ble hu­mour. He’s so light when he walks into the room,” says dancer Bran­don Al­ley of the in­de­mand chore­og­ra­pher. “His work is so hu­man, and then there are very tech­ni­cal mo­ments in the piece as well. A lot of it is hu­man in­ter­ac­tions and about how peo­ple grow—that they can con­nect through sim­ple ges­tures.”

The North Carolina–born Al­ley, who’s be­come a mag­netic on-stage pres­ence since join­ing the troupe in 2015, adds that the cozy new dance sur­face af­fects the en­tire mood of the piece—and of re­hearsal: “You can be more reck­less and free. It’s like a cush­ion. There are morn­ings when the sun’s com­ing in, and we’re all just ly­ing around, stretch­ing out on the car­pet.”

In­ger ex­plains in a sep­a­rate in­ter­view at the stu­dio that B.R.I.S.A., which he first cre­ated for NDT2 in 2014, came from the idea of change and awak­en­ing: “how it can be the small­est things that trig­ger the big­ger changes”. He points to ev­ery­thing from the Arab Spring to the #metoo so­cial-me­dia cam­paign as ex­am­ples.

To cre­ate the piece, he as­signed the dancers dif­fer­ent ages and per­sonas, with the “younger” char­ac­ters more ea­ger to em­brace change than the older ones. But slowly, the lit­tle com­mu­nity he builds on-stage starts to trans­form.

“I al­ways try to cre­ate jour­neys for the dancers if I can,” In­ger says. “This piece starts re­ally closed, and then I re­ally try to cre­ate an ex­treme curve—a dram­a­to­log­i­cal curve.

“If I can have hu­mour in it then I do that, too; I like when you are moved and when you laugh,” he says with a smile, and dance­go­ers will im­me­di­ately rec­og­nize that mix from his only pre­vi­ous work for Bal­let Bc—the far­ci­cal yet melan­choly au­di­ence favourite Walk­ing Mad. “But it’s the hard­est thing to do to be funny.”

In­ger says that, in his dance, feel­ing comes first. “In or­der for me to get a hu­man­ity out of the work I can­not only re­ally do steps,” he says. “I like to see peo­ple danc­ing. And I love the beauty be­tween the highly tech­ni­cal thing and some­thing very plain.”

Al­ley notes a sim­i­lar theme be­tween In­ger’s B.R.I.S.A. and Cayetano Soto’s as-yet-un­ti­tled pre­miere, which shares the pro­gram. This, even though the two chore­og­ra­phers are so stylis­ti­cally dif­fer­ent—in­ger’s work so earthy and hu­man, Soto’s a whirl­wind of part­ner­ing and push-pull ten­sion.

“Both pieces deal a lit­tle bit with fear. In B.R.I.S.A., peo­ple are afraid to open up to other peo­ple or joy or sex­u­al­ity, but there’s this rip­ple ef­fect and they want to go to the other side and ex­pe­ri­ence this bliss,” Al­ley ex­plains. Then he turns to Soto’s work, which is based on a se­ri­ous ill­ness that put the chore­og­ra­pher in hos­pi­tal: “Cayetano talked about when your in­ner cries are say­ing you can’t do some­thing. He was afraid that he was never go­ing to dance again or chore­o­graph again.”

The troupe is tak­ing on these two new works on the heels of a tour to Cal­i­for­nia and New York City, where it per­formed the equally di­verse and chal­leng­ing Solo Echo by Crys­tal Pite and Bill by Is­rael’s Sharon Eyal and Gai Be­har.

The sea­son doesn’t open un­til Thurs­day (Novem­ber 2), but it’s al­ready been an in­cred­i­bly de­mand­ing fall for Bal­let BC. “Re­ally, I do a lot in both pieces, so I’m ex­hausted,” Al­ley ad­mits with a smile. “I’m just try­ing to find the plea­sure and the joy in it.”

From the point of view of In­ger, dancers here are han­dling them­selves exquisitely un­der the pres­sure that comes from grow­ing. “I see a high level of work­ing and a com­mit­ment I think stems from [artis­tic direc­tor] Emily [Mol­nar], an ap­proach to the work you don’t al­ways see ev­ery­where,” he says be­fore head­ing into the stu­dio to join the dancers on the car­pet. “I find it very stim­u­lat­ing and very in­spir­ing to come here.”

Bal­let BC presents Pro­gram One at the Queen El­iz­a­beth Theatre from Thurs­day to Satur­day (Novem­ber 2 to 4).


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