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Diverse works show dancers’ edge

Contemporary style merges with classical as the National Ballet of Canada presents four pieces
The National Ballet of Canada showcases classical ballet and edgier works in its performance at the Port Theatre.

The National Ballet of Canada, known for its classic, storytelling style of dance, aims to expand people’s idea about what they do.

The company brings four pieces to the Port Theatre Sept. 30 ranging from contemporary to classical styles.

“It gives us an opportunity to show some of our edgier work,” said Jillian Vanstone, principal dancer and former Nanaimo resident.

The program features Vanstone dancing the lead role’s pas de deux from La Fille mal gardée, one of the oldest narrative ballets about young love.

Contrasting that is Emergence, choreographed by Chrystal Pite to resemble a swarm of bees in a subterranean universe.

“People don’t expect that’s what we do,” Vanstone said.

The ballet also performs The Man in Black, based on the music and life of Johnny Cash, with the dancers in cowboy boots. The final dance, The Second Detail, is set to an electronic score.

Jillian VanstoneVanstone also performs in Emergence, switching from classical to contemporary styles during the show.

As a veteran of the company, she has experience to have her own activities during intermission to make the change between styles. Contemporary ballet pushes the boundaries of what the body can do, taking traditional moves and extending them beyond a dancer’s initial comfort zone.

“There’s challenges with different programs,” Vanstone said. “The dancing is really demanding.”

Vanstone grew up in Nanaimo, attending Kirkwood Dance Academy before acceptance into Canada’s National Ballet School program. She joined the National Ballet after graduation.

She danced lead roles in Gisele and performed as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. Her performance as Alice in the company’s production of Alice in Wonderland earlier this year led to her promotion from first soloist to principal artist.

“That was the role that helped me get this promotion,” she said.

She will be filling more lead roles in ballets to come.

While in Nanaimo, Vanstone will be leading a master class at Kirkwood, her former school, for the senior dancers. The goal is for the dancers to have fun, she said.

“I tend to focus a lot on the artistry of things,” Vanstone said. “You get so focused on technique you forget the artistry of it.”

For information on the master class, please call Kirkwood at 250-751-1984.

The National Ballet of Canada’s presentation at the Port Theatre begins at 7:30 p.m. Artistic director Karen Kain hosts a pre-show chat at 6:45 p.m.

Tickets are $60; $56/members.

For more information, please call 250-754-8550 or visit