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Raising the Barre for Art & Culture: Ballet BC's Emily Molnar takes us into the future of ballet
When Emily Molnar took over as artistic director of Ballet BC, the Vancouver-based dance company was on the brink of bankruptcy – another cultural institution that had yet to find its footing in this new, fast-moving digital world.
But with some spectacular leaps of ingenuity and a drive that was evident even as a budding six-year-old ballerina, Emily imagined a future beyond the traditional four walls of the theatre. “It's about being agile and fluid,” she explains.
“At Ballet BC, we’re all classically trained dancers and we’re taking that training and technique as a base from which we can build a new language in dance.” The pieces her dancers perform are visionary, choreographed by Emily herself as well as top international talents like the award-winning
Cayetano Soto and Sharon Eyal. “We’re always making new work.
I’m so excited by what could exist versus what has existed.”
Her eight-year tenure has been resplendent with accolades
such as the Order of Canada, and the hallmarks have been stylish contemporary productions that have set audiences talking and,
more importantly, watching. “A woman in Santa Barbara said to me
‘I didn’t know dance could look that way. I didn’t know if that was a man or a woman. It allows men to be vulnerable and women to be strong,’” recalls Emily.
She not only opened the doors wide to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre – Ballet BC’s home – in a sense, she also tore down the curtain that divided the audience from the performers. The company hosts Q&A sessions, backstage workshops, and peeks inside the dancer’s studio through dancer-curated social media. Her mission was to have every audience member feel connected. “Without audience members, we don’t have a performing art form. Every time a dancer steps on stage, that is a conversation. If someone’s giving us their time, what are we going to share?”
Emily wants everyone to participate in this wordless conversation.
This also happens to be the impetus
behind her collaboration with Simons.
“My philosophy has always been just because someone’s not in that seat doesn’t mean they don’t want to be there. The Simons Community Balcony lets us reach a wider audience by offering tickets at $15. Plus, Simons has a great relationship with the community...it’s innovative, involved, and I love what it stands for and how it was founded.”
TOURING IS ANOTHER PART OF EMILY'S EFFORT TO BROADEN THE CONVERSATION - AND THE WORLD IS SITTING UP AND TAKING NOTICE:
From theatres in Los Angeles to Sadler’s Wells in London, Ballet BC is taking the stage at some of the most hallowed halls of dance and is set to perform well into the future. It's a modern fairytale ending for a young ballerina who always knew her dream was bigger than a single role.
True to her theme of reinventing the classics, Emily and Ballet BC are deep in rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet. “I have a soft spot for Prokofiev.” But there's no doubt that her version will have audience members not only filling the seats, but also leaping out of them, full of the energy and enthusiasm Emily has poured into Ballet BC.