Sixth Breath – a new work by Christopher Anderson premiering in de.Vi.ate

It’s all about balance.

A new piece called Sixth Breath by Associate Artistic Director Christopher Anderson in Alberta Ballet’s winter mixed bill de.Vi.ate is being created with that in mind. Balance in the program, balance in life, and balance in the aspiring choreographer’s career.

The exceptional opportunity was offered to Christopher when Artistic Director Jean Grand-Maitre asked him to choreograph a piece to be featured in the same program as Jean’s ballet, Caelestis, which was commissioned for Canada’s 150th birthday by the National Arts Centre and has never been performed in Alberta, and Wen Wei Wang’s Futureland which moved Alberta audiences in 2016 when it last was performed here.

“I’m super excited about it because it’s always super scary – in a challenging way. It’s the ultimate opportunity to create something totally from scratch, so you’re challenged to create something that’s interesting,” Christopher said. “The pressure to say something is really daunting and scary, but it’s also the goal for someone who’s an aspiring choreographer. These are the opportunities that are few and far between, so I feel like I have to take a big swing, a big risk.  Otherwise it’s a wasted opportunity.”

“I think the piece will be about life. Sometimes life can feel overwhelming, sometimes it can be a struggle to find your place in the world, and often it can be astoundingly beautiful,” he added.

“Both of the other pieces are big, very masculine, large-scale pieces. So my first thought was, ‘how do I fit in this program? What do I do that will complement the program?’ I started looking at the overarching themes of the other pieces, and I started thinking more minimalist.”

Christopher’s ballet will feature minimalistic music with moments of silence “to create tension from the stage to the audience,” and an all-female cast. The dancers have also helped inspire him through their pre-existing connection and work history on productions like Cinderella and The Sleeping Beauty.  Christopher’s familiarity with each dancer’s style and ability to interpret his movement gives him a tremendous creative advantage and launching point for the new work.

“With The Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella, you’re shaping a story in a way that you want it to be heard, but you have the music and story to work with,” he said. “The big difference for me getting the opportunity to create a mixed bill piece is having the ultimate blank canvas.”

“There has to be trust and fearlessness in the dancers and I have that. This is what gives me confidence that we can create something that’s interesting that the audience can talk about.”

Sections were created last summer in the Summer Creation Project, and in the last month Christopher has been collaborating with the dancers, challenging them and inspiring them to bring life to the steps to create something noteworthy.

“I really find that with more contemporary, more abstract work, the dancers really help define the direction of the piece,” he said.

The piece has really started to take shape, and although he’s created it with intention, he hopes that it is a piece that allows the audience to connect with it in different ways.

“That is the beauty of art, each person connects to art in their own personal way,” he said.

Christopher has expanded on his collaborative approach, inviting Alberta Ballet Dancer Heather Thomas to design the costumes. 

Tickets to de.Vi.ate are on sale now for shows in Calgary Feb. 13-16 and in Edmonton Feb. 22-23.

Kim Jackson