Ballet Kelowna's artistic director has innovative tenure

Ballet Kelowna dancer Clare Bassett performs in Innovation, featuring six dance pieces vowing to challenge the ideas of contemporary ballet, at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Saturday, March 1.  - Glenna Turnbull photo
Ballet Kelowna dancer Clare Bassett performs in Innovation, featuring six dance pieces vowing to challenge the ideas of contemporary ballet, at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Saturday, March 1.
— image credit: Glenna Turnbull photo

It will be a fond farewell to an Okanagan dance legend when David LaHay, founding artistic director of Ballet Kelowna, says goodbye the best way he knows how, through the art of movement.

LaHay is directing his last performance with Ballet Kelowna before his retirement as the company starts its tour of new production Innovation.

The tour’s first stop is Saturday at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre, where, fittingly, Ballet Kelowna held its inaugural show more than 11 years ago.

After its near collapse last year, LaHay, promises this to be the crowning achievement of his success with the company.

“(This program) will touch and move everyone in the theatre without speaking a word because that is how powerful dance is,” he said.

Expect more than tiaras and tutus from this most important season for Ballet Kelowna. Innovation features six dancers and six unique choreographed works that vow to challenge the ideas of contemporary ballet, said LaHay.

The first piece, I Remember You, is being remounted from the company’s first commissioned work back in 2005 by former Ballet BC star Simone Orlando and LaHay.

“It’s the perfect opportunity to revel in this well-loved piece while enjoying subtle new changes to the choreography that come with the strengths and experiences of the new dancers,” said LaHay.

The second work is from Mozart’s inspirational Exsultate, Jubilate

The crystal clear sound of the soprano voice combined with the precision and grace of the talented performers is truly a delight that LaHay assures “will leave you feeling uplifted and joyous.”

For the company he founded, LaHay’s final choreography will stand third in the program.

A collaboration with Kelowna composer Neville Bowman, the number features a catchy jazz score that inspires compelling movements of the dancers on stage; a creative masterpiece for the ears and eyes.

Next, a bit of humour tumbles into the program when former Ballet Kelowna dancer Raelyn Heple sets a piece just for the ladies. It’s an opportunity for Heple to display her talent with her former colleagues.

The choreography of Kay Armstrong, a Vancouver dance icon of times past, is showcased in an excerpt from Quatre études de Rythme, an important ballet from 1949.

Québécois singer-songwriter Gilles Vigneault sets a playful tone for the last piece of the evening: a fun skating pas de deux.

Next year will see the company with a new artistic director, a new energy, new vision, new collaborations, and new dancers. The new season promises to continue walking the cutting edge of contemporary ballet by mixing up the program and adding new repertoire.

Ballet Kelowna’s performance Saturday, March 1 at 8 p.m. is the fourth of five shows in the Performing Arts Centre society’s 2013-14 dance series. Tickets are $30/adult, $27/senior, $25/student available through the Ticket Seller at 549-SHOW (7469) or online at www.ticketseller.ca


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