Vancouver is leading the way in contemporary ballet in Canada, but if you’re looking for a full-length classical story, the city has few options.
Coastal City Ballet Artistic Director Li Yaming with Company Director Andrea Allen noticed this void and five years ago decided a repertory company was in need.
“In Vancouver there are actually a lot of ballet schools,” says Li, following the company’s first dress rehearsal before opening Swan Lake at the Vancouver Playhouse on Saturday (May 21.) He explains how many aspiring ballet dancers go on to further training after high school but when they don’t find jobs right away, many quit. His goal with Coastal City Ballet is to offer performance experience by putting to practise what so many of these dancers have spent their young lives training for.
German choreographer Irene Schneider has been instrumental in bringing Li and Allen’s vision to light, choreographing all five of the company’s full-length story ballets. For this production, Schneider reimagines Swan Lake with a modern twist.
“The main difference in this version is that the story is an idea instead of it being a fairytale,” says Rehearsal Director Katrina Bois as she waits for the dancers to change out of their costumes before giving out notes. “It’s the idea of marrying for love or marrying without love for power or status.”
Of course fairytale elements remain. Siegfried is still a prince but instead of a princess and sorceress turning into swans, Siegfried dreams of true love in the form of a white swan (Odette and her posse) and is in reality set to enter an arranged marriage with Odile (formerly the black swan.)
Coastal City Ballet's cast is a combination of local and international talent. Argentine dancer Lucilla Munaretto, the 21-year-old who was in a near-fatal rollerblading accident last summer, is making her comeback with a character role.
“I’m so happy, I was missing this,” says Munaretto, glowing with optimism to be finally back on stage.
Other casting highlights include a guest appearance from local Tyler Carver, currently a corps de ballet member with Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, as well as Diego Ramalho, who was a breakdancer before Li scouted him a few years ago, as the prince.
The company experiments with contemporary work in the fall, but focuses on bringing the classics like Cinderella, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Coppelia and now Swan Lake to Vancouver audiences who want a story-filled night out at the ballet.