Edmonton Journal


Ballet Edmonton's Avancer includes two world premieres, Wen Wei Wang's You Are All I See


Canadian choreograp­her Kirsten Wicklund is returning home to Edmonton after two years as a demi-soloist with Opera Ballet Vlaanderen in Belgium, and she's bringing the world premiere of her work I Have an Instinct That This is Nearly the End. The piece is one section of Avancer, a three-part evening being presented by Ballet Edmonton Friday and Saturday at MacEwan's Triffo Theatre.

Taking the position in Belgium had been a dream of Wicklund's, but she's looking forward to resettling in the Vancouver area where she grew up and trained as a dancer. One teacher and choreograp­her she always admired is Wen Wei Wang, artistic director of Ballet Edmonton, whose remount of You Are All I See will round out Avancer, alongside the world premiere of Infinite Consequenc­e by U.S.based choreograp­her James Gregg.

The striking title of Wicklund's work just popped out of her mouth one day in the studio, but after sitting with it a while, she felt it encapsulat­ed the nature of the work, which draws on a solo piece she created before leaving Vancouver in 2021. That piece dealt with emotions related to letting go and continuing on, and of going forth into the unknown.

“Despite everything in life, I will go again. I will try once more, I will put myself out there again and take a risk,” says Wicklund, describing her thoughts at the time and explaining how things have come full circle as she returns home with the debut of work deriving from that piece.

“I saw this as a way to multiply that idea across many bodies.”

With her newest work, she wanted to capture universal feelings of desire and the relentless­ness of the daily grind as we all push forth, overcoming obstacles, or failing but persisting neverthele­ss.

“We all have our hopes and dreams inside,” she says. “Every day, we get up and we do the thing, and we do it over and over. I feel that the grind of life is something that everyone can really relate to.”

In putting those feelings and experience­s into choreograp­hy, Wicklund used repetition and unison, reinforced by uniform costumes, to evoke a sense of relentless­ness.

“Desire is a driving force behind movement, behind repetition, behind continuing forward and continuing to live, basically. Continuing to try despite failures,” she says.

The music for this piece was put together by Wicklund's colleague in Belgium, Niharika Senapati, a fellow dancer who also works as a musician and sound designer.

“Conceptual­izing that side of it with her was very fun,” says Wicklund. “She had a lot of beautiful insights to offer me.”

Wicklund speaks with reverence about the power of lighting, an element she likes to continue tweaking well into the process, even right up to the end.

“It's a really alive part of the work. It can change so much,” she says. “I never feel like it's quite finished.”

Her vision for the lighting is to highlight the primal, instinctua­l, animal aspect of the work. The dancers spend a lot of time on the floor, and she hopes the lighting can give an almost wet look to the scene.

“In one way, I imagine they just came out of the ocean or something, almost like sea creatures,” she says. “There's something animal behind it.”

As Wicklund prepares for her return to Canada, she speaks enthusiast­ically about her debut collaborat­ion with Ballet Edmonton and the calibre of work being done by the company.

“For me, it's the most fruitful process I've had to date,” she says.

“Every day, they would rise up to meet my expectatio­ns, so my expectatio­ns kept growing and growing.”


For something completely different, check out Vástádus Eana / The Answer is Land. The ensemble piece created by Elle Sofe Sara, a Sámi choreograp­her from Norway, features Sámi dance formations and the traditiona­l Sámi singing style of polyphonic yoik, with an original score by composer and professor of yoik Frodo Fjellheim.

The piece, presented in Edmonton Feb. 18 as a co-production between Mile Zero Dance and Fringe Theatre Adventures, has toured worldwide since 2021 and received the Norwegian Dance Critics Award in 2022.

The focus of the work is community and connection to nature. Sara, a choreograp­her, director and filmmaker, was inspired by Rájácummá / Kiss from the Border, another collective's 2018 art installati­on that placed signs with poetry at the border between Finland and Norway.

“The Kiss from the Border project caught my attention because it is political and activist art that is driven by love rather than anger,” says Sara, in her artist statement.

While Sara's choreograp­hy can be playful, the nature of her work pushes back against colonialis­m and touches on taboo themes such as abuse and trauma.

The production is being presented at the Westbury Theatre in the Fringe Theatre Arts Barns (10330 84 Ave.) and $25 tickets, along with more details, can be found at milezeroda­nce.com.


For another unique dance experience, get your tickets to the Shumka School of Dance winter concert happening Sunday at the Jubilee Auditorium. Shumka is celebratin­g its 60th anniversar­y as a Ukrainian folk dance ensemble, combining classical and contempora­ry dance.

The company recently wrapped up its 10th Canadian tour, which featured four of its newest pieces: Mosquito's Wedding, Promised Land, My Yeh and Echoes of Hopak. The winter concert is a perfect time for the uninitiate­d to get acquainted with Shumka.

Speaking of wintry dance affairs, don't miss The Winter Gala, Alberta Ballet's celebratio­n of romantic moments from such classics as Swan Lake, Giselle and Don Quixote.

The evening's selections, several of which have never been on stage in the province, were curated by Francesco Ventriglia, the company's new artistic director, who recently relocated to Alberta from Tuscany, Italy. The gala takes place Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Jubilee Auditorium at tickets start at $69.

 ?? GREG SOUTHAM ?? Dancers with Ballet Edmonton rehearse Tuesday for the company's three-part program Avancer, which runs Friday and Saturday at MacEwan's Triffo Theatre.
GREG SOUTHAM Dancers with Ballet Edmonton rehearse Tuesday for the company's three-part program Avancer, which runs Friday and Saturday at MacEwan's Triffo Theatre.

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