Award-winning choreographer Donald Sales isn’t new to The Banff Centre. He was here last year to work with Aszure Barton on a piece she created for our Dance Masters performance series. But this year, Sales — who received the 2013 Clifford E. Lee Choreography Award — had a completely new experience here. He’s experimenting with giving dancers more creative freedom on the stage — a style of artistic direction that’s also the basis for his new dance company, Project 20.
“Last year I knew when I came back I wanted to do a story,” Sales says. “I’ve been able to elaborate on ideas and dreams I’ve had.” His new work, The ugly duckling, was choreographed for dancers in The Banff Centre’s Professional Dance program, and premiered at Dance Masters last week. “It’s very cinematic, very character-driven, and very personal to the dancers,” he says.
The piece also gives the audience freedom to interpret the story for themselves. “I purposely designed it so we don’t know exactly who the main character is.” As I watched The ugly duckling on opening night last week, I saw a dancer — who opens the piece on a dark and eerie set — haunted by someone she can’t shake, and it’s unclear whether she wants to. “I can’t even say there’s an ending,” Sales says. “The piece should be continued.”