Rena Narumi was born in Tokyo and trained in Paris before joining the Arts Umbrella Dance Graduate Program. As a professional dancer she performed all over the world with companies such as Kidd Pivot, Nederlands Dans Theater 1, Royal Swedish Ballet, and Hessischen Staatstheaters Wiesbaden. In 2018 she became a freelance artist based in the Netherlands, and has returned to Vancouver to work with us as a guest artist for the 2020/21 season. Rena met with me on March 30 to discuss her experience with Ballet BC.
How did you become a guest artist with Ballet BC? Is your role different from the other dancers?
It was very generous of Medhi Walerski, he gave me this opportunity to be a guest artist here. When he approached me, I was very happy with this offer, because I had always wanted to work with him. This is also his first year with the company as a director, and I am honored to be part of the team.
And yes, my role is different as a guest artist. I’m here for a certain amount of days, and certain parts of the programming. This year, during the pandemic, we had a lot of issues with the work permit to come here, because I am living in Holland. I was supposed to arrive much earlier, at the beginning of the season, but I was not able to. I managed to land here just in time for the first program, REACHING U, which we are streaming soon. I am in Medhi’s work, GARDEN.
For Take Form I was an outside eye. Some dancers asked me for specific lighting cues, so I was in their rehearsals a few days before to take notes and give some advice. I was supporting all the dancers on the day of the filming, being an extra pair of hands for what everyone needed, and for some lighting cues.
The season is not what we expected. How have you been adapting to the ever-changing situation?
There are many things, right? Cases are still rising, and now we’ve got new protocols in Vancouver that are a little bit more strict. When we heard the news, for a second we thought we might have to stay home, but so far we’ve been able to stay in the studio, and keep working. Which I am very thankful for!
I have been so lucky, and I’m grateful to be here. During this pandemic I was able to fly over the sea, and to work in this new environment, meet new dancers, and dance with my friends that I grew up with at Arts Umbrella. Many things have been shifted to the virtual world for more than a year now, but I like the online aspect. While it’s never better than actually meeting in person, online content has presented an opportunity to open our eyes, and connect us more, in a global sense. I’ve been teaching online classes for some time, and I get to meet so many dancers from all over the world that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. There are many difficulties and changes, but there is also a lot of good happening right now. I’m curious what will stay and carry on.
Are you still doing projects with other companies?
At the moment no, because I’m here for Ballet BC. But I do some online teaching here and there. There’s an online class organization that my dancer friends created, Danzoom. I’m part of their teacher team. That’s where I teach most of the time online. If you have access to the internet you can take class from anywhere — as long as the time zone is not too early!
Were you involved with Ballet BC when you trained at Arts Umbrella?
Back in the day, I wasn’t involved with Ballet BC much. A few dancers were, but I was focusing more on what was happening in the Arts Umbrella program. We did collaborate some, like when John Alleyne created The Four Seasons. It’s a pity, I never worked with him personally. But we were able to learn some of the parts from the Ballet BC dancers, and then we performed them in the theater for our Arts Umbrella Season Finale. That was really nice to have that exchange, and be able to learn some of the company repertoire from the dancers that were involved in creating and dancing it.
Also back in the day, I remember there were many company dancers taking class with the school, and we would take class with the company sometimes. Through these classes, we were able to meet all the professional dancers, and see what the environment was like. We were able to absorb a lot. I learned by watching.
You’ve worked around the world with many companies. How has your experience with Ballet BC been unique?
The dancers are super powerful, and I feel that there’s beautiful young and fresh energy in the company. This creates a lot of sparkle and fun energy that I find unique. Everybody really wants to work, and then goes for it. There’s no hesitation for new challenges, they will just dive in to try things. It’s really nice to feel that energy — it inspires me. I’m really happy to be part of it and see their dancing every day. There is so much beautiful talent here, and they work so hard. Individually there are such amazing artists here in the collective. I really wish that more audiences can see their dancing and get inspired. From the digital streaming event, and live performances, I hope everybody gets to enjoy all the talent and feel something through the dancers artistry. Especially when the theaters open up again, you will feel their presence for real. I hope many audience members can support, and get closely involved in the arts in their lives. I want the world to see them.
By Kristen Lawson, Ballet BC Marketing Coordinator
A special thank you to ZLC Financial, our sponsor for this interview series.