A Montreal choreographer takes a sci-fi approach in Ballet BC’s What If

The idea of ​​creating life artificially or synthetically appeals to Dorotea Saykaly

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Ballet BC: What if

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When: May 12-14 at 8 p.m.

Or: Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 630 Hamilton Street, Vancouver

Tickets: $21.75-$115.25

Ballet BC’s third and final program of the season features three world premieres of new talent from the company: German choreographer Felix Landerer contributes with Everything will be OK; Vancouver’s Out Innerspace piece is called Strange Attractor; and Montreal choreographer Dorotea Saykaly presents Relic.

We spoke to Saykaly about her piece, described as a “look at creation through a scientific lens,” and which won the inaugural Emily Molnar Emerging Choreographer Award.

Q: What is your previous experience with Ballet BC?

A: In 2005, I did an intensive eight-month internship at Arts Umbrella. As part of the program, I took a course with the company. I’ve followed them since Emily Molnar took over in 2009. And with the Emerging Choreographer Award, I got to know the company well because the project got behind schedule. It was extended, which was wonderful enough to get to know the dancers and the company better.

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Q: How did you become the recipient of the award?

A: There was a call in 2019. You write a letter of intent and propose an idea that you would like to develop. It’s mostly written but you should provide excerpts from your past work that best represent your vision and style. And with the award comes the opportunity to choreograph with the company.

Q: How does this new work, Relic, fit in with your previous pieces?

A: It’s definitely an evolution of the last two years. More than that, probably. There was a focus on a type of physicality, on a kind of theme. There is a theme that has interested me for a while. It is the idea of ​​creating life artificially or synthetically. I’m a big science fiction fan. The main question is often: what makes us human beings? It was a big driver for me.

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Q: How do you translate science fiction ideas into physical terms?

A: I always start from a physical point of view. I try to understand what a body is trying to understand about itself, about its environment. In this way I try to codify the movement with the dancers. Visually, there are tools that I use to help me, whether it’s with the set design or the lighting. I also work with voice over. I like text, and I like when choreographers bring text to a creation. I worked on writing the voiceover and recorded it. I try to keep it minimal so the focus is on the dancers.

Q: Are you a science fiction reader or viewer?

A: I haven’t read a lot of science fiction. My favorite writing is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which some would say is the beginning of science fiction. Visually, I grew up with Blade Runner in the house. It’s my mother’s favorite movie. I had this visual stimulus from an early age. And then it varies. Essays, podcasts. A press article could be a source of inspiration. I like to call my approach science fiction renaissance. I am interested in classical art forms with Renaissance statues and paintings. There are so many riches that we can draw from it.

Q: How much do you explain to dancers? Do you give them a lot of background?

A: When we started last year, I provided the dancers with a playlist and a list of movies and videos that inspired the piece. Some dancers love doing this research, some don’t. This year, although the team is still very present and the references are still very much in my mind, I immersed myself more in the action in the studio. So maybe there’s less outside inspiration. But I like to let them participate in the process. The more you know, the deeper you can dig. And you can choose what you decide to use for studio work.

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