In just BEFORE right AFTER, Ballet BC artistic director Medhi Walerski opens the door to dancers’ creativity

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      Nearly 19 months after becoming Ballet BC’s artistic director, Medhi Walerski will finally have one of his entirely new choreographic works presented live to a local audience.

      The North American premiere of just BEFORE right AFTER at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre will be only the company’s second live show since the pandemic descended on the world back in 2020.

      “We are thrilled to go back on-stage,” Walerski tells the Straight by phone.

      This production, which includes all 19 Ballet BC dancers, is set to original music by Belgian composer Adrien Cronet. Walerski’s just BEFORE right AFTER is part of a program called Reveal + Tell, running from March 3 to 5, that includes The Statement by Kidd Pivot founder Crystal Pite and Woke Up Blind by German choreographer Marco Goecke.

      Walerski explains that the name, just BEFORE right AFTER, resulted from a recent Ballet BC residency with Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, which is the coproducer. The first part of the work was choreographed beforehand. The second half took shape right after the residency.

      “There’s a moment where things shift in the work and I wanted to highlight that in the title,” Walerski says.

      There’s not a story, per se, but he allows that the production reflects a willingness of people to be together.

      “It’s about letting go and abandoning,” the choreographer adds. “It’s about silence and pause and the necessity to find space within.”

      He says the dancers demonstrate a “beautiful unity” in the production. And they’ve also been eager to bring their own voices into the process.

      “I find that really overwhelming, to witness their creativity in the studio,” he says.

      Rae Srivastava is another of the Ballet BC dancers who will perform live on-stage at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
      Marcus Eriksson

      Walerski adds that he was eager to allow them to have a voice. As the choreographer of just BEFORE right AFTER, he was keen to “open doors” to provide more space for dancers to demonstrate their chops.

      “Not every work allows that,” he concedes, “and not every choreographer is open to that. But with this process, it’s such a pleasure to actually witness their artistry.”

      Several times during the interview, Walerski praises the talent of the new generation of dancers. That prompts the Straight to say that it sounds like he’s enjoying his job as Ballet BC’s artistic director.

      “Yes, I do,” he replies. “Very much. I’m so curious about each artist. And they’re all so unique that there is so much beauty in each individual.”

      Walerski's earlier piece, GARDEN, was performed in November. That was his first live show as Ballet BC's artistic director.

      He’s also feeling good about the two other works being shown, describing Pite’s The Statement as a “masterpiece”. The script, which includes a heated conversation around a conference table, was written by her longtime collaborator, playwright and actor Jonathon Young. The show has four dancers.

      “It’s about control; it’s about moral conflicts and responsibility,” Walerski says. “I think you could almost consider the piece a play. And it’s very much linked, I think, to our time and the current events we are facing right now.”

      Goecke’s piece features seven dancers and is set to two songs by Jeff Buckley: “Dream of You and I” and “The Way Young Lovers Do”.

      “It’s touching,” Walerski says. “It’s intense. It’s an exploration of love.”

      Ballet BC presents Reveal + Tell March 3 to 5 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, which includes Woke Up Blind by Marco Goecke, The Statement by Crystal Pite, and just BEFORE right AFTER by Medhi Walerski.