Coupled with the Brian Webb Dance Company (BWDC), Ballet Edmonton has released the digital world premiere of “Persistence of Memory,” an exploration of love, loss and alienation during the coronavirus pandemic.
This 40-minute presentation that blends contemporary ballet with back-stage documentary snippets, goes online May 3 to 8.
The new material is a glimpse into Ballet Edmonton’s artistic director/choreographer Wen Wei Wang’s personal stress, frustrations and observations during the pandemic.
For Wang, it wasn’t just full-stop employment or wondering where the next paycheck was coming from. It was the daily stress from a complete lifestyle reversal that compounded his anxiety. And he saw his inner fears reflected in the masked faces around him.
“I used to really enjoy going out to restaurants. Now every time I want to go out, I ask, ‘Do I need to go out?” said Wang noting how the pandemic has affected his psyche. “I’m afraid to lose a friend. I’m afraid to lose relatives. When someone is sick, I think, ‘Do they have COVID?’ And with masks, it’s tough. You feel isolated.”
The Chinese-Canadian tells of an incident that prompted an emergency visit to the hospital.
“As an artist, you’re always running two or three different jobs. All of a sudden COVID is here and you stop. You have nothing. I was having a hard time. One day I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t stand. I thought I was having a heart attack. I went to the hospital and they said it was just anxiety.”
Ultimately, it was the reversal of life’s normal routines that fueled “Persistence of Memory” giving his eight athletic and chiseled dancers the opportunity to reinterpret the choreography with undying passion.
“The dancers show very powerful emotions and a strong technique. When you watch the dancers, you feel they are talking to you. They are honest. They are human beings,” Wang said.
A former dancer trained at Langzhou Song and Dance Company, he is unafraid to boldly push the interpretive boundaries of contemporary dance both physically and emotionally.
His signature style fuses precise, powerful choreography into fluid movements aided by blending traditional and modern music. In this case, he harnesses excerpts from Frederic Chopin, Johann Sebastian Bach and Ezio Bosso to relay his story.
Adam Kidd of Limbo Editing Services was tapped to film and edit dance scenes that are performed mainly by soloists telling individual stories. The only exception is a duet performed by company dancers Yoko Kanomata and Diego Ramalho, a couple.
Filmed during a two-day stretch inside Ruth Carse Centre for Dance, the company rehearsal studio, Wang noted everyone felt safe and protected from the pandemic.
“Adam brought two technicians. Each section was shot four times at a different angle.”
In addition, documentary scenes were filmed backstage with dancers as they discussed the pandemic, the gruelling yet fulfilling rehearsals, and the preparation required to ace this project.
Wang hopes viewers will open their mind to "Persistence of Memory."
“I haven’t seen the final finished product. I’ve seen some sections and they’re fantastic. I can tell you the dancers are amazing. They are gorgeous and fun to watch."
Tickets are $15 per household and are available online at www.bwdc.ca.