A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Long Live The Queen
Tuesday, July 07, 2009

No hay mal que por bien no venga.
Spanish Proverb

Bad stuff happens so good things can, too.

It was with pleasure that I read today in my Vancouver Sun that dancer/choreographer Emily Molnar has been named interim artistic director for Ballet BC.

There is no doubt in my mind that John Alleyne’s tenure as artistic director was a positive one for Ballet BC. When he first started I remember seeing an old-fashioned ballet that featured May pole dancing! At the time the audience was made up (more than now, I believe) of conservative old ladies who just loved their Giselles, Nutcrackers and anything else by Tchaikovsky. Slowly (but fast enough for me) without those little old ladies noticing it, Alleyne got rid of the May poles and incorporated the avant-garde choreography of former Frankfurt Ballet director William Forsythe adn wonderful stuff by National Ballet of Canada Artistic Director James Kudelka. Alleyne himself brought in his own choreography. A lot of it had as its cornerstone the dancer Emily Molnar whom he had lured home from Ballet Frankfurt in 1998.

When Molnar (she is striking at 5 ft 11in) entered my studio for her first picture in 1998 she quietly sat in a corner in a fetal position for 10 minutes before facing my camera. Since then, thanks to Molnar, and the performances of some of William Forsythe’s works by Ballet BC I have come not only to appreciate why Forsythe’s choreography and his company were rated about best in the world but also why Molnar can talk physics. Asked on how he pushes the boundaries of the form of dance Forsythe once said, “I don’t think so much of the body when we are doing this. We are thinking about ‘the thinking body’ or we’re trying to understand how the body thinks about its own presence.” Or the way the ever-succinct Molnar put it to me, “Dance requires the entire body and the mind.” And she ventured into Einsteinian ephemera when she discussed space, time and movement in my studio (with her former Frankfurt Ballet soul mate Crystal Pite, note picture here).

The shortest definition of relativistic movement I have ever heard came from Molnar and Pite. Molnar said, “Movement is the observer.” This means that from a position of rest we the observers can discern the movement of a dancer on stage. Of time Pite said, “The ephemeral of dance exists only in the present movement. We are left with traces of movements that are gone as they are being created. As we carve space with our bodies they leave a ghost, the trail which affects our future moves and informs the observer of our past moves.” I then understood that those past moves are much like the contrails that high-flying jets leave in the sky.

Molnar has her own company, Emily Molnar Dance. When possible I have attended whatever performance of hers I can find. More often than not she is busy choreographing for companies in Europe and New York. I sometimes catch her rehearsing the senior dancers at Arts Umbrella on Saturdays. Her principal role performances for several of John Alleyne’s full-length works included The Faerie Queen and Scheherazade linger in my memory. On the rehearsal of the latter Rebecca first noticed her and insisted on meeting her. It was in Molnar’s solo performance of Speak choreographed for her by Margie Gillis that I finally fell hard for her. I had to photograph Molnar for the Straight so she offered to go through the whole performance (just for me!) so I could pick a dance move for the photograph (one of the pictures is the one here). In such close proximity I learned how strenuous dance really is, no matter how effortless a dancer makes it seem to be. I now sit in the front row for dance performances, as part of the rewards of watching dance is to be able to hear the dancers breathe.

Every time that I have been to a Molnar performance, Rebecca has had the opportunity to chat with her after. I have no idea what it is they talk about but some of these conversations are long. On several occasions Rebecca and I watched (from a window) Molnar’s master classes at the Arts Umbrella. Not long after Rebecca told me, “Let me show you some Molnar moves.” It was uncanny she seemed to be a little Emily Molnar! Rebecca had distilled some of the very moves that make Molnar a one of a kind in dance.

Having observed how Molnar handles children, teenagers and near adults at Arts Umbrella I can assert gracefully and reverently say of John Alleyne (as far as Ballet BC is concerned), “The king is dead, long live the queen!”

A new and exciting era is upon Ballet BC.

My debt to Ballet BC


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