Dancing to The Hip
Alberta Ballet's Laura Vande Zande on Dancing to The Hip
2017/18 is Laura Vande Zande's sixth season with Alberta Ballet. It's a season that will crescendo in a finale of a new portrait ballet, All of Us, featuring the music of The Tragically Hip.
Since Laura started with Alberta Ballet, Artistic Director Jean Grand-Maitre has premiered two portrait ballets: Balletlujah! and Our Canada. She's also performed in his Love Lies Bleeding and Fumbling Toward Ecstasy. But the kind of contemporary ballet being explored in All of Us is proving to be a genre all of its own.
All of Us explores a story of warring clans set in scorched barren landscape. With a strong martial arts influence. The work demands a wide low stance, a distinct counterpoint to the balletic ethereal.
Says Laura, "The movement is sharp. The idea is to force our energy outward and then forcefully pull that energy back in. Like you would do with a punch."
Artistic Director Jean Grand-Maitre describes All of Us as a surreal mix of inspiration from Mad Max to Burning Man to Blade Runner. If this approach sounds like a surprising fusion for a classically-trained ballet company, it's also an amazing opportunity for Alberta Ballet's dancers to showcase their incredible range of talent.
"The technical expectation is still there, but how we move between positions has a different fluidity," says Laura. She explains further by framing the feeling of the choreography this way: "When I think about [dancing] Cinderella [premiering in March], I have a sense of being on top of my shoe. But in All of Us, it's more like being one with the floor.
"Instead of thinking 'up, up, up', it's all 'down'."
Focused on that wide low stance, Grand-Maitre saw a kinship in U.S.-based Shaping Sound's choreography. Shaping Sound features the same grounded physicality central to the vision for All of Us. Jean arranged a Master Class with Shaping Sound's Nick Lazzarini, a perfect way to connect with a guest company and open an avenue for our dancers to explore a new style. (Get a glimpse of the energy of our dancers rising to the challenge.)
Says Laura, "I find the strong guitar sounds really asks us to think differently about our movement. All of Us is unlike anything you might expect from Alberta Ballet."