Nanaimo soprano Nadya Blanchette and dancer and choreographer Ivana Ho (from left) and her dancers will be performing with the Vancouver Island Symphony on Jan. 18. (Photos courtesy Nadya Blanchette professional archive/Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Vancouver Island Symphony begins new year with tribute to Viennese waltz

Ensemble to be joined by soprano Nadya Blanchette and Bohemia Dance Productions

There will be more movement on stage than usual at the Vancouver Island Symphony’s next performance.

On Jan. 18 the ensemble presents Waltz and Polka, an evening heavy on 19th century Austrian compositions featuring guest appearances by local soprano Nadya Blanchette and dancer and choreographer Ivana Ho and her Bohemia Dance Productions dancers.

Ho said it’s been five years since members of her dance company have been a part of a VIS concert and it’s a rare “treat” to be accompanied by live musicians. She said traditional Viennese waltz events held around New Year’s are a big deal in Europe.

“I’ve done one in Europe and people actually dress up in gowns and they go to the theatre and … often the conductor would wear one of those 1800s army outfits and then that’s what he conducts in and it’s usually a really big orchestra and lots of talented singers and dancers,” she said.

Blanchette has worked with both Bohemia Dance and the VIS in the past but this is her first time with this format. She said the pieces she’ll be performing are commonly known compositions “sure to put a smile on everybody’s face.”

“It’s an escape to the world of dreams and fun because it’s that kind of tradition that lends itself to happy endings, happy-ever-afters because it’s so joyful,” she said. “And so it’s really a rendezvous with the audience to share this happy, fun and bubbly music.”

With a repertoire that is as much fun to perform as it is to listen to, Blanchette said the program is a suitable “initiation” to newcomers to the orchestra. Ho agreed that the crossover appeal of dance and music could bring newer, younger audience members to the concert.

“I talk to lots of people and they say, ‘Symphony is not my cup of tea,’ but I think this show is different because you will have something visual for people who just don’t want to close their eyes and listen to the music or watch the orchestra, which I loved as a kid,” she said. “I grew up going to concerts only, but for people who are not used to that, maybe the dance will just make them want to see it a little bit more.”

Ho added that she’s looking forward to being a part of the show as well, even though she’ll be working with some space limitations due to the numbers of performers on stage. But she said she can manage.

“I work with so many different stages and school gyms and little, tiny areas that, really, to have a Port Theatre with a proper orchestra behind, I’m in heaven,” she said.

WHAT’S ON … The Vancouver Island Symphony presents Waltz and Polka at the Port Theatre, 125 Front St., on Saturday, Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $48 and $56 for adults, $22 for students, available at the box office.

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