“Every time I create a piece the process is different,” explains Simone Orlando, the Artistic Director and CEO of Ballet Kelowna, the only professional dance company in interior BC. “Sometimes the music is what inspires the dance.”
Such is the case with her piece Studies of Cash, inspired by the music of Johnny Cash. Her decision to create the piece was kickstarted when Orlando and her mother were stranded in Merritt, BC on a karaoke night. “The original version of the dance actually features a dancer singing Ring Of Fire karaoke style,” Orlando says.
Revelstoke residents will have a chance to see Ballet Kelowna dancers perform a remounted Studies of Cash in the upcoming Boundless performance on Thursday, March 3rd at the Revelstoke Performing Arts Centre. World renowned choreographer Matjash Mrozewski and Canadian composer Owen Belton have partnered with Ballet Kelowna to create the show.
There will also be a new take on the classic Romeo and Juliet balcony scene by choreographer Joshua Beamish, and the premiere of Glas, created by renounced choreographer Gabrielle Lamb. Glas features youth from the Okanagan.
“99 per cent of ballet choreographers are dancers because ballet dance requires specific techniques that take years of practice to understand,” she explains. Orlando enjoys using those techniques as a launching pad to create what she describes as her own ‘movement vocabulary.’ She believes embracing other dance styles can lend more texture and movement to her choreography. “There is ballet influence and hip hop and urban influence in Studies of Cash. I think it makes the piece meatier.”
Regardless of what inspires Orlando to create, she is constantly collaborating. “Part of this means allowing dancers to be given a task with regards to a movement and then seeing where that direction takes them. It allows for more exploration. This encourages dancers to become invested in the process and their personalities show through.”
A retired professional ballet dancer, Orlando danced with the National Ballet of Canada and Ballet BC. “As a dancer, it’s nice to be seen as more than a passive tool that pumps out routines like a machine,” she laughs.
While Orlando loves the classics, her willingness to engage and collaborate means several works being performed by Ballet Kelowna are fresh and contemporary. “Of course, the audience wants to be moved and transported and leave real world experiences behind,” she says. “But dance should also be a reflection of where we are as a society today and challenge audiences’ thoughts on the future.”
Since Ballet Kelowna commissioned her first dance piece in 2005, Orlando has won the prestigious Clifford E. Lee award for choreography from the Banff Centre, completed a fellowship at the New York Choreographic Institute (associated with the famed New York City Ballet) had several commissioned works, retired from dance, and graduated from BCIT in Business Management.
Orlando hopes the audience appreciates how ballet is still a relevant art form. “There is room for new takes on classical pieces. Urban and hip hop elements can lend themselves to new contemporary pieces with themes relevant to youth today,” she says.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children available at ArtFirst, the Revelstoke Visitors Centre or through the Revelstoke Arts Council website.
Correction: An earlier version of this article mis-credited the choreographer of of Glas as Matjash Mrozewski. It was choreographed by Gabrielle Lamb. We also erred in the title of Studies of Cash. We regret the errors.