Chantelle Norris, founder of Nanaimo Contemporary Ballet, leads dancers in a rehearsal for the company’s debut performance, Endeavour, which shows Saturday (Jan. 21).

Chantelle Norris, founder of Nanaimo Contemporary Ballet, leads dancers in a rehearsal for the company’s debut performance, Endeavour, which shows Saturday (Jan. 21).

Nanaimo Contemporary Ballet creates production focusing on Syrian refugee crisis

Endeavour is Nanaimo Contemporary Ballet's debut performance.

Contemporary ballet dancers are delving into the emotional stories of Syrian refugees during Endeavour.

Endeavour is Nanaimo Contemporary Ballet’s debut performance and is a series of interpretive pieces inspired by people who are being affected by the crisis in Syria.

The show begins in pre-war Syria, then moves to when bombs are dropping and it ends with the current situation in the country.

“We touch on the timeline of the war, so pre-war Syria, through the war and feelings of hopelessness, isolation and then at the very end touching on feelings of hope,” said Chantelle Norris, artistic director of Nanaimo Contemporary Ballet.

She said she is very interested in politics and has worked on several campaigns locally.

“I have always thought it would be great to incorporate dance and global and local issues in one,” she said. “The Syrian refugee crisis is obviously something that has touched us all, especially with so many newcomers to the area.”

Norris worked with Feras Saedam, refugee resettlement coordinator for the Central Vancouver Multicultural Society, to collaborate and choose authentic music. She also wanted to understand the song’s meanings.

When Norris presented her idea to the company’s dancers, ranging in ages from 12-16, and their parents she received positive feedback and a high level of commitment from them, said Norris.

Maybelline Mnguni, 13, said it’s a big thing to be a part of.

“The dance is really powerful,” said Mnguni.

For Garnet Nicolle, 14, she said it is “cool” to be part of something that is going on in the world.

“A lot of people don’t want to talk about it because of how bad it is there and the fact that we are actually touching on it I think is really powerful,” said Nicolle.

There is one dance called Shh, said Nicolle, and it is about people not wanting to talk about the crisis.

“People tend to not want to talk about things that are upsetting so they just get forgotten, but we’re actually bringing it back and showing the awareness that it’s really important. You can’t stop talking about it,” said Nicolle.

Nanaimo dancers are being joined onstage by members of Ballet Victoria and Convergence Contemporary Ballet.

“We’re very, very lucky that we have guests Ballet Victoria who is a very prominent company on the Island joining us,” said Norris. “I am so grateful that Ballet Victoria and Convergence Contemporary Ballet are joining us and sharing this moment with the younger dancers. It’s a really incredible experience for them to dance alongside professionals like that,”

Nanaimo Contemporary Ballet was formed last year by Norris.

Endeavour shows Saturday (Jan. 21) at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Malaspina Theatre, located at Vancouver Island University.

Tickets are $20 available online at or at the door.

A portion of the ticket sales will be donated to the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society to help support Syrian refugees.

Cash donations, clothing and other household items will also be accepted at the door.

Nanaimo News Bulletin

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