Ballet BC names French dance artist Medhi Walerski its new artistic director

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      The choreographer behind some of Ballet BC's best-loved repertoire will soon be taking over the company.

      French-born Nederlands Dans Theater alumnus Medhi Walerski has been named the troupe's artistic director, starting officially in July 2020. Walerski is best-known to local audiences for creating a contemporary Romeo + Juliet as well as the eclecticPetite Cérémonie--one of the most successful pieces in Ballet BC's repertoire.

      Walerski replaces longtime artistic director Emily Molnar, who is taking the helm of the critically acclaimed NDT after the end of this season. She has steered Ballet BC for a decade, helping to bring it out of a financial crisis and taking it to a world stage, where it has won acclaim on tours to Europe and the U.S.

      Walerski cut his teeth at the Paris Opera Ballet and was a starring member dancing for NDT for more than a decade. 

      In a press statement this morning, Ballet BC's search committee praised Walerski's ability to lead an artistic team and his ability to produce a "highly polished artistic product". It said Walerski has a good familiarity with the company, and that he intends to continue Molnar's vision for the troupe's growth. 

      As early as 2016, Walerski expressed how comfortable he felt at Ballet BC, a company the choreographer kept returning to. “Here, it felt like home,” he told us in an interview that year, adding he loved the versatile dancers at Ballet BC as much as he did the city. “It was a side turn from what I was doing and I had fun and wanted to do it again—there’s something in Canada that I need. I can try different things. I can be myself.”

      Though the Paris Opera honed his love of ballet technique, Walerski is known for being unafraid to draw on whatever stylistic methods he needs to express his ideas. As audiences saw in Petite Cérémonie, dancers are as likely to speak, juggle, or shuffle their feet to the rhythm as they are to pull off balletic moves. Working on Romeo + Juliet, which returns here March 4 to 7, he attempted his first story ballet--and he told the Straight he found a renewed appreciation for his classical training, even after years of cutting-edge contemporary work at NDT.

      “I am honored and thrilled to be joining Ballet BC as Artistic Director, and to work and collaborate with its incredible artists and team," Walerski said in the statement today. "Building on the Company’s legacy, and sharing the diverse and innovative creative vision of Ballet BC with audiences across Canada and the world is something to which I look forward with great anticipation.”

      “I am thrilled the Company will move into a new era with Medhi," Molnar said in the same press statement. "An inspired
      emerging leader, Medhi’s accomplishments as an internationally renowned dancer, as well as his 8-year choreographic affiliation with the Company will surely bring Ballet BC forward with a fresh new vision.”

      Walerski’s first full season as artistic director will be 2020-21, which is Ballet BC's 35th anniversary.