Ballet B.C. interim director Emily Molnar has big plans

With talk of more local and international collaborations, the creation of a junior company, and the development of a training body, Ballet British Columbia's new interim artistic director, Emily Molnar, is thinking long-term. Molnar, a highly respected contemporary choreographer, dance artist, and teacher, has signed a one-year contract with the company but admits she's looking beyond next season.

“My ultimate desire is to be a longer-term artistic director, absolutely,” she told the Straight. “I think that anybody that comes in at this point would be crazy if they were taking this job and not wanting to do that.”

Molnar, a former member of the National Ballet of Canada and the Frankfurt Ballet, was a star member of Ballet B.C. in the mid-'90s. She has gained international notice for her cutting-edge choreographic work with such groups as Toronto's ProArteDanza and Christopher Wheeldon's trans-Atlantic troupe Morphoses. She takes over from John Alleyne, who left the company in June after 17 years. Far from indicating a move toward the more traditional, she said she envisioned Ballet B.C. placing greater emphasis on the creation of collaborative, contemporary large- and small-scale works.

“It [Ballet B.C.] is going to be a contemporary-ballet company,” she insisted. “A diverse repertoire of contemporary ballet that focuses on various choreographers locally, nationally, and internationally is what we're going towards.”¦I have danced internationally and I've also choreographed internationally, and I'm very happy to say that I have a lot of friends that are very much in the scene right now of choreographic work, and they're very excited about the possibilities of what Ballet B.C. is going to do.”

Molnar's appointment was hailed by DanceHouse coproducer Barb Clausen as “a brilliant choice”. “She's got good history with the company, really good connections in the community, and also she's really well connected internationally and nationally and well-respected. I think she's got a hard road to hoe, but I think she's up for the challenge.”

Grant Strate, a founding member of the National Ballet and head of SFU's School for the Contemporary Arts from 1980 to 1989, had some reservations. “She's very young,” he said of the 36-year-old Molnar. “She's a dancer more than a choreographer.”¦I think the question that I would have is what is her vision”¦between the position of herself as choreographer and herself as the person who makes choices about choreographers?”¦But I don't want to be negative....I wish her good luck and I would support her.”

After temporarily laying off its entire staff and filing for protection from creditors last January, Ballet B.C. has largely been operating in a state of limbo. The company announced last month that it would not be mounting a full subscription season during the 2009-2010 season, nor would it be taking part in the Cultural Olympiad. And it has yet to unveil its plans for next year, except to reveal that it will present a fundraising gala on September 30.

Molnar, however, remains upbeat. “My philosophy that I carry is that sometimes, in the most challenging and difficult moments, that's when great opportunity arises,” she insisted. Looking at the company's future, she said she envisioned “a training body that would be connected to the company, so a school for contemporary dance”.