The Unreal Season is an apt name for Ballet Kelowna's 2019-20 season.
The opening night of the first program, Dawn, at Kelowna Community Theatre on Friday night (repeated Saturday) illustrated that in droves: a world premiere, a company premiere featuring a Canadian ballet treasure, and the re-mounting of a Ballet BC classic choreographed by Ballet Kelowna CEO and artistic director Simone Orlando.
During her remarks to more than 500 in the theatre, Orlando welcomed "so many new subscribers" which resulted in a 25-per-cent increase in season ticket buyers.
The season's second mixed program, Twilight, on Feb. 14-15, 2020 will feature two world premieres and a company premiere. And to wrap up the season, the company's first full-length ballet, McBeth, is on May 1-2, 2020. Ballet Kelowna is the first Canadian ballet company to commission a female Canadian choreographer to create a full-length ballet in more than 40 years.
The launch of The Unreal Season took on epic proportions with internationally-acclaimed ballerina Greta Hodgkinson performing Bolero before she retires from The National Ballet of Canada in 2020 following a 30-year dance career.
Ballet Kelowna welcomed The National Ballet of Canada’s choreographic associate and acclaimed choreographer Guillaume Cote to the stage, for bows, after the company premiere of his Bolero masterpiece.
Add to that the world premiere of Ion, an innovative and electrifying work created by celebrated dancer, teacher and choreographer Heather Dotto.
Hodgkinson proved why she is a ballet superstar, as she had members of the audience jumping to their feet in a sustained standing ovation amid resounding cheers.
Not only is she smoother than the finest silk, the most graceful ballerina ever to grace an Okanagan stage, but she and the four professional dancers from Ballet Kelowna perform the most unbelievable, take-your-breath-away lifts rivalling Olympic gymnastic competitions. The men more than rise to this special occasion with their ever-so-careful catches and lowering of this crown jewel back to the floor.
The choreography of highly-charged Ion was sparked by lightning only centimetres from Dotto's frightening flight on a commercial aircraft. Dotto’s sharp, angular and fast choreography demonstrated the impact of electrical currents on the human body as the dancers transformed into atoms or perhaps fragments of matter pulled together and pushed apart like magnets.
Doppeling, the final work, could have been a letdown after Ion, Bolero and a long intermission. Instead, it was yet another "unreal" highlight. Ten Ballet Kelowna dancers were dressed identically in shimmering unitards and bobbed wigs for a mesmerizing commentary on conformity and individuality.
The title comes from the word doppelganger, literally translated from German folklore as a "double-goer," a non-biologically-related look-alike or double of a living person.
Set to J.S. Bach’s Double Violin Concerto, a sly doppelganger itself, Orlando explores the multiple ways dancers can portray the concept of a spirit double — in pairs, three, four and even 10 dancers at a time.
Orlando summed it up: "Each piece in this kinetic program reveals an aspect of female identity and one’s deep desire to break free from conformity and find an independent voice."
Ballet Kelowna, now in its 17th season, has certainly found its own unique voice in "bringing compelling and inspiring dance to local, national and international audiences."
While admiring Hodgkinson's performance in Bolero, a famous William Shakespeare quote (abridged) came to mind: "I shall not look upon (her) like again.” Then again, this is Ballet Kelowna and this is Simone Orlando.