“Everyone feels the energy of spring, especially when it comes to love,” says Paul Destrooper, artistic director and choreographer for Ballet Victoria. “But it’s often a challenge to find the balance physical passion with cerebral longing.”
Original choreography by Destrooper explores this theme through movement and music at the Sid Williams Theatre on Saturday, April 26 with Ballet Victoria’s presentation of Carmina Burana. The ballet is based on 24 medieval poems and set to Carl Orff’s epic score of the same name.
“The performance has strong classical elements but a more contemporary flow of movement,” explains Destrooper. “I studied the text and listened to the music until images of movement – some literal and some abstract – came to me. Even the abstract images capture the energy and the dramatic intent of the words.”
“The whole ballet is built on a simple daily vocabulary of movements,” he continues. “For example, the way a woman puts on makeup or can change completely under a sweater. The dancers extend those movements so the audience recognizes them on a subconscious level yet they remain an enigma.”
While the original poems use irony and satire to describe society in medieval times, the seduction, angst and span of emotion depicting relationships between men and women is timeless.
“For people who know ballet, the performance will speak volumes; others will simply enjoy it as a funny piece,” notes Destrooper.
His goal as choreographer is to tell a story. “I want to connect emotionally with the audience,” he says. “I chose specific music and steps and coach the dancers to express the feelings of their characters with their entire body. I want the audience to feel what the dancers and music express and how it relates to their own life through humour, social commentary and universal experiences. Carmina Burana is about love, where we go to meet people, how our relationships develop and how we find balance in them.”
Storytelling comes naturally to Destrooper. In university he studied language with plans to go into journalism. Then a friend invited him to attend a ballet class.
“I loved the fact that it involved classical music, was dramatic and physical and had elements of theatre without having to memorize lines and thought it would be make me better at the I played,” Destrooper says. “But I couldn’t master it to save my life; it was like learning Chinese.”
But he persevered and one teacher told him he had a talent to develop. The next thing Destrooper knew, he was studying at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet where he danced professionally after graduation. Positions as principal dancer at Alberta Ballet and Oregon Ballet Theatre followed.
“I got into ballet and choreography late in life,” Destrooper admits. “But even as a dancer I loved to be part of the process and often made suggestions to professional choreographers. Over time I naturally shifted into artistic direction to satisfy my passion for theatre and telling stories.”
Since joining Ballet Victoria in 2007 Destrooper has choreographed more than 25 works and three full-length ballets. And, in seven years, he’s taken the company from an in-the-red $80,000 year budget and no permanent dancers to a half a million dollar annual budget with a troupe of ten dancers.
He’s also gained a reputation for breaking down stereotypes about ballet, stimulating audiences in new ways and for choreography that shapes movement in a way that captures light with little interruption to flow.
Regarding the April 26 performance at the Sid, Destrooper says, “We’re thrilled to be returning to the Comox Valley as the audience is so warm and receptive. And the tiny but mighty theatre society does such a great job of providing nourishment and culture to the community.”
Carmina Burana begins at 7:30 pm. Tickets, at $44 for theatre members, $49 for non-members and $23 for students, are available at the Sid Williams Theatre. For more information visit www.sidwilliamstheatre.com and www.balletvictoria.ca.