British Columbia

War-themed ballet performance honours veterans

'I really wanted to do something on a personal note that said thank you,' says choreographer

Jaimie Kehler - CBC News

November 10, 2017

Dancers rehearse for Acts of Remembrance, a war-themed production by Ballet Kelowna honouring Canada's veterans. (Simone Orlando/ Ballet Kelowna)

Ballet Kelowna is putting on a special war-themed performance this weekend as a tribute to veterans, particularly the Okanagan men who served in the First World War.

Acts of Remembrance is a thoroughly researched contemporary ballet featuring an original composition as well as photos of Kelowna war veterans.

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"I really wanted to do something on a personal note that said thank you and I remember," said choreographer Simone Orlando, artistic director and CEO of Ballet Kelowna.

"Remembrance Day is very dear to me."

Dancers dressed as soldiers

Orlando said her grandfather fought in the Second World War as a navigator in a bomber plane. She said 100 years after the deadly battles of Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele, she wanted to pay tribute to local veterans.

She spoke to local historians and visited museums throughout the Okanagan Valley to gather information and photos, all of which are incorporated into the new production.

"I started looking at these images and starting to think about how I would put a piece together," she said.

A short video promoting the production can be seen online.

All of the dancers are dressed as soldiers. One particular training scene actually features movements found in an army physical drill manual from 1914.

"All of the dancers learned these exercises that the soldiers used to do prior to going off to fight," said Orlando.

"Then we go into a scene called Waiting in the Trenches. It's reflective of that waiting, of the cold, of the bitter conditions that men faced."

Veterans names 'built into the score'

As expected, the sombre production also features death.

Orlando said 133 men from Kelowna died in the First World War, and many of their names are "built into the score" and will be read aloud during the performance.

Orlando said dancers in Acts of Remembrance are "physically connected," moving in a unit like a platoon. (Simone Orlando/ Ballet Kelowna)

The ballet features an original new score by composer Owen Belton.

"Ultimately what I'm hoping might come of this, is people might look a little bit deeper into our history in the Okanagan. Of the men who did go off and fight in these battles," said Orlando.

Acts of Remembrance will be performed Friday and Saturday at the Kelowna Community Theatre.

The program will also feature works by choreographers Wen Wei Wang and Joe Laughlin. 

With files from CBC's Daybreak South

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