Emily mol­nar

merg­ing choir and dance

The Georgia Straight - - Front Page - BY JANET SMITH

Haunt­ing vi­o­lins and vo­cal­iza­tions are fill­ing Bal­let BC’S down­town stu­dio. In the troupe’s run-through of Emily Mol­nar’s new and as-yet-un­ti­tled work, 16 dancers move rest­lessly through the space, oc­ca­sion­ally grasp­ing at some­thing in­vis­i­ble be­tween their hands, like they don’t want to let go of it but can’t quite hang on to it.

Me­taphor­i­cally, any­way, it’s mem­ory they’re grap­pling with—or at least chore­og­ra­pher Mol­nar is. When she started lis­ten­ing to the loop­ing, lay­ered strings and voices of Lat­vian com­poser Pe­teris Vask’s mes­mer­iz­ing Plain­scapes, the theme emerged clearly. And in a unique col­lab­o­ra­tion, it will be per­formed live in Bal­let BC’S sea­son-end­ing Pro­gram 3 by the Phoenix Cham­ber Choir (with vi­o­lin­ist David Gill­ham and cel­list Oskar Falta).

“Mem­o­ries are fleet­ing and they come and go, and we need to hold on to them,” Mol­nar says on a break af­ter­ward. “The more things start to go the more you want to hold on to them. This ur­gency comes from the de­sire to live. And the piece is about leav­ing and say­ing good­bye.”

Want­ing for years to work with Phoenix con­duc­tor Graeme Lan­gager, Mol­nar had been search­ing for the right com­po­si­tion to bring choral mu­sic to­gether with dance. And Vask’s cy­cling, slow-build­ing Plain­scapes, with its word­less ex­pres­sion, spoke di­rectly to her. “I have to feel like this,” she says, pulling at the front of her sweater. “I have to be pulled in or I can’t do it. This felt that way, like there was a mys­tery in­side it.

“I also liked the chal­lenges of it be­ing so short and deal­ing with hav­ing a be­gin­ning and a mid­dle and an end within that,” she adds of the 16-minute work, which finds the dancers emerg­ing from and dis­ap­pear­ing into dark­ness, like fleet­ing rec­ol­lec­tions. “I love that they’re not speak­ing any­thing in par­tic­u­lar. Their voices be­come this other world. So I im­me­di­ately saw this full land­scape of the full com­pany de­scrib­ing a per­son.”

The theme of mem­ory seems fit­ting, be­cause Mol­nar, on the brink of cel­e­brat­ing her 10th sea­son with the com­pany, is in a re­flec­tive mood.

She and her com­pany are just back from a suc­cess­ful tour of the U.K and Ger­many—a jour­ney that took them from Lon­don out to stops like Brighton, New­cas­tle, and Birm­ing­ham, and then, in early April, to the Movi­men­tos Fes­ti­val in Wolfs­burg, Ger­many. Amid its achieve­ments, the com­pany sold out Lon­don’s dance cathe­dral Sadler’s Wells. The Guardian raved in its re­view of the show there, “it’s ex­hil­a­rat­ing to see the con­fi­dence with which Van­cou­ver­based Bal­let Bri­tish Columbia takes the stage”. “I’ve toured a lot in my life as a dancer. It was an in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant tour, and I just needed

to keep ground­ing the com­pany,” Mol­nar says. “They were very fond of the com­mit­ment of the com­pany and were very com­pli­men­tary of the tech­ni­cal abil­ity of the dancers.”

Sev­eral crit­ics cel­e­brated the fact that the pro­gram, with work by Crys­tal Pite, Sharon Eyal, and Mol­nar her­self, show­cased three fe­male chore­og­ra­phers—and it made Mol­nar proud to think that wasn’t un­usual for her troupe.

“We did this be­fore it was such a big topic,” she ex­plains. “So I was proud of us as Cana­di­ans that we were al­ready on this—and also just be­ing Cana­dian am­bas­sadors and for them to see that level of work from us, be­ing from out West.”

Mol­nar and her com­pany had to re­hearse her new work while on the road, but she says the chance to prac­tise it in large venues, sim­i­lar to the scale of the Queen El­iz­a­beth The­atre here, gave her a chance to sculpt it for the stage.

But work­ing on the fly has its chal­lenges, and here Mol­nar again stops to praise the high-level artists she’s re­cruited into her troupe.

“The dancers are great to re­search stuff with—they help me a great deal. I don’t know if I could make the work I’m mak­ing with­out

that in­ti­macy,” she says. “We’ve built a com­mon lan­guage of un­der­stand­ing.”

Over the course of her near-decade reign, which started in 2009 with a com­pany on the verge of col­lapse, those dancers’ weeks of work have in­creased from 28 to around 45. Look­ing ahead, Mol­nar wants to up that fig­ure even more, to a full sched­ule. And she wants to keep push­ing tour­ing, while bal­anc­ing it with a strong sched­ule of pro­gram­ming here at home.

The tour, she says, “gave me the sense that we have to keep do­ing this, to watch the work keep grow­ing”. Ex­pect her to scat­ter those trav­els through­out next sea­son and to re­visit some old favourites from her 10 years of cre­ation and cu­ra­tion, as well as some bold new work. (Bal­let BC plans to an­nounce that new sea­son on Pro­gram 3’s open­ing night.)

Mol­nar’s past decade has pro­vided many mem­o­ries she wants to hold on to, but it’s clear she’s laser-fo­cused on push­ing the com­pany, and dance, into the fu­ture.

Bal­let BC presents Pro­gram 3 at the Queen El­iz­a­beth The­atre from next Thurs­day to Satur­day (May 10 to 12).

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Emily Mol­nar is craft­ing a new work set to live choir mu­sic (Emily Cooper photo), still glow­ing from praise for her dancers (below left, Michael Slo­bo­dian photo).

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