We’re excited to announce our new interview series, 5 Questions With…, sponsored by ZLC Financial. Community is a core value at ZLC — they take pride in supporting local, community-focused institutions. Our ten-part series will introduce you to the Ballet BC team, letting you get to know us on a deeper level. Today, we kick off the series with our new Artistic Director, Medhi Walerski!
Walerski is a world-renowned French choreographer. After collaborating with the company for many years, Walerski became Artistic Director of Ballet BC in July 2020. Kristen Lawson sat down for a zoom chat with him on October 13, shortly after his move to Vancouver.
Welcome to Vancouver! What are you most excited to experience in BC?
I have a lot of things that I’m excited about. But the incredible outdoors and wildlife – I’m really looking forward to seeing and discovering… as well as the culture, the people, the art community. I’m also eager to learn the history and cultural heritage of the land.
Tell me about beginning your role as Artistic Director of Ballet BC remotely, from Europe.
It has been challenging, with a lot of online meetings. The time difference added a whole layer of difficulty, but I had no choice but to jump right in, headfirst! It’s been a bit of a crash course since the beginning of the pandemic. Even though I studied leadership last year, I wasn’t prepared for what we’re facing now, and I’m learning as I go.
The time allowed me, from a distance, to start investigating projects and collaborations with other arts organizations, that have different structures for audiences, and to start thinking outside of the box, and moving away from conventional space, and the way that we structure normal theater. It’s a great time to learn, and to dream a little, and to imagine where the company could go, and to start laying that foundation now.
Can you give us a hint about what you’re creating with the company this season?
We start creating today, actually, for a site specific event. We’ll be presenting digital content, offering behind the scenes videos, and a little something special during the winter.
Sounds exciting! What’s the most challenging thing about being both a choreographer and Artistic Director during this pandemic? What have you missed the most?
I’ve never spent this much time behind a computer, being static! It’s a lot of organizing, planning, preparing. There have been so many different scenarios, and they’re constantly changing. It feels as if there is a cloud over our heads reminding us that we are very fortunate to be back and working in the studio, and presenting something this season, but also that anything can happen, and it can stop at any moment if we are not careful, following the protocol, making sure that we work in a safe environment.
The idea of freedom has changed. There’s a lot of strategic ways of working that have to be implemented… creating restrictions, of course, but also reinforcing the idea that the act of creating knows no boundaries, and that we will always be able to create, no matter what the restrictions are.
Being in the studio, and creating with the dancers, and performing in theaters, are things that I miss very much, because as performing artists the stage is our home. I’ve also missed connecting physically with people. As dancers, we are grounded in making physical, and emotional, connections to other people with our bodies. We deeply connect with the human physical instrument.
You have a sweet story about getting your dog, Hamlet, don’t you?
Oh, that’s funny! Five years ago my partner and I knew that we wanted to adopt a dog. We went to a shelter and Hamlet had just arrived as a rescue dog from Romania. He had traveled for 48 hours, and he was all curled up under a table. I went down, and picked him up. He was terrified. I put him on my lap, and he just took a big, deep sigh, and kind of surrendered. We cuddled for a bit. It was love at first sight. Since then we haven’t left him.
By Kristen Lawson, Ballet BC Marketing Coordinator
Support for this interview series is generously provided by ZLC Financial