I have always thought of dance as an individual art form, one where pure movement expresses meaning and beauty. But that was before a recent conversation with Jean Grand- Maître, Artistic Director of Alberta Ballet. I spoke to him in advance of the Banff performance of one of his original ballets, and his thoughts on ballet as a multidisciplinary art form altered my outlook on dance production. Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, inspired by the music of Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan, was partly developed by Grand-Maître at The Banff Centre in 2011 during a Performing Arts and Production Residency.
The Centre shares a longstanding partnership with Alberta Ballet, and it’s an important one for Grand-Maître.“The landscape itself is inspiring for any artist,” he told me. “It brings you to a pure space, a place where you need to create art.” He explained that the residency environment is the best tool to protect the arts identity, creating a space where it can be both fostered and nurtured.
“The residency allows us to put all the elements together for a week at a time and see how it all relates, which gives dancers the opportunity to mature in their role before they have an audience.”.
I learned that technologies are fusing within the arts, an interesting concept that got me thinking about what the future of creativity will look like, a place where projections re integrated with lighting cues, scenery, and costume design.
For Grand-Maître, access to residency and retreat can inform the ballet as a whole. “Knowing I can have a residency with the Banff Centre changes how I conceive the actual ballet. Without a residency, I would make the ballet much more simple and less refined.”