Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada opens `Piaf'

The Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada, based in Moncton, will stage the original production, 'Piaf', for the first time this week.

The original production celebrates the life and songs of Edith Piaf and features a French dancer

The Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada will stage the original production, Piaf, for the first time this week.

The ballet about the life and songs of the late French singer, Edith Piaf, will feature a Paris-born dancer who says she is honoured to play the role of one of her heroes.

Olga Petiteau, who is 24-years-old, says she grew up listening to the music of Piaf.

"She's like a legend," Petiteau said.

"Her voice, her story, her life. She's always remembered and her songs always go on the radio."

Igor Dobrovolskiy, co-founder of the Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada, which is based in Moncton, says the idea for Piaf has its roots in the very first time he heard one of her most famous songs, Je Ne Regrette Rien, on the family record player at his home is Ukraine.

"I still have goosebumps," he said.

"It's so emotional … sometimes you know your memory from early childhood is coming back and sudden provocation and I think I would like to do ballet about her."

Dramatic production

Dobrovolskiy has included eight of Piaf's most famous songs in the ballet, including Mon Dieu, in the scene where Piaf's boyfriend dies in a plane crash.

Petiteau says that scene is her biggest emotional challenge in the show.

"You have to show the desperate moment when you knew someone that you love died and that's very tough for me but it's amazing. I feel so good after … because I just get rid of everything I have at that moment. It's beautiful but it's tough."

Susan Chalmers-Gauvin, co-founder and CEO of the Atlantic Ballet, says hiring Petiteau at the same time the production was being created was serendipitous.

"Somehow we've got a short, young lady from Paris who has huge eyes just like Edith Piaf — you couldn't find a better fit to be honest, so it does make the production even more exciting to have Olga [Petiteau] with us."

She says the ballet is set to become an important addition to the company's repertoire.

It has been picked up by presenters in Quebec and Chalmers-Gauvin says companies in western Canada have also expressed interest.

"That was a bit of a surprise to us, so we've got a tour in Alberta and British Columbia next year with Piaf."

The Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada has toured Europe in the past.

Petiteau says in the back of her mind, she has thought about what it would be like to dance the role of Piaf in her home country.

"To go to France that would be, that would be amazing. I don't think there is any word to explain the feeling. That would be one of my next dreams I guess."

Piaf opens Tuesday at the Playhouse in Fredericton and will be performed at the Capitol Theatre in Moncton on May 28.