Entertainment

k.d. lang admits she was 'super humbled' by Balletlujah, ahead of CBC doc premiere

Two years after the ballet Balletlujah! premiered in Edmonton, the usually elusive singer has allowed a further peek into her life with a new documentary on the production airing Thursday on CBC-TV.

Balletlujah premieres on Thursday, June 18 at 9 p.m. (10 NT) on CBC-TV

k.d. lang says she was 'super humbled' when she first saw Balletlujah, the Alberta Ballet production based on her body of work. A film about the production, and the Canadian crooner, delves even deeper into the show's creation and lang's Prairie upbringing. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

k.d. lang's versatile career has spanned punky rockabilly, traditionalist country and elegant adult pop — and it's safe to say she never foresaw any of it dressed in a tutu.

Certainly, she admits she knew next to nothing about ballet when Alberta Ballet artistic director Jean Grand-Maître initially approached her about putting together a production based on her catalogue.

At the time, the four-time Grammy winner felt "quite vulnerable" about surrendering her body of work to someone she didn't know for a medium she didn't really understand.

He won her over. But her unease temporarily reemerged as she first witnessed Grand-Maître's dance spectacle in action during a 2013 dress rehearsal.

"I started off nervous and prickly and a little bit critical — because I was fearful," lang said recently in Toronto.

"And then I started melting. As I watched it, I started softening, melting and opening up, and by the time I saw the real production ... I was super humbled by the effort and the discipline and the work and the offering of the other artists."

So impressed was lang that, two years after Balletlujah! premiered in Edmonton, the usually elusive singer has allowed a further peek into her life with a new documentary on the production airing Thursday on CBC-TV.

The film probes lang's Prairie upbringing, traces the creation of the ballet and features the flowing footwork that apparently so captivated Alberta audiences.

"It's an artform from the castles of France that you're bringing to the Canadian Prairies — it has to be relevant," said Grand-Maître.

"Balletlujah, more than any other ballet we've ever danced, really brought it home that this artform could touch (any) audience."

'Shocking and beautiful'

It certainly cracked lang's viewpoint open.

"Oh my lord, yes," she enthused. "Since, I've been going to watch the Alberta Ballet productions, from classical — Carmen — to the Sarah McLachlan ballet and Don Quixote.

"Their injuries, they're just like pro athletes. It's like watching these youngsters whose whole lives are spent preparing to dance for a certain number of years — and then they have to retire.

Alberta Ballet dancers perform Balletlujah, which was inspired by the music of k.d. lang. (CBC)
"It's just shocking and beautiful to see the discipline and dedication they have to their bodies and their craft."

The earliest conversations between lang and Grand-Maître focused on the Prairies, and the way its open expanse was reflected in lang's vocal landscapes.

That reverence for Canada's core comes through in Balletlujah. And while the ballet's plotline — about a love affair between two women — is fictitious, lang sheepishly admits to flashes of awkward truth.

"There were moments where I'd be kind of squirming in my seat like, 'Aww, ouch, I remember that,"' she laughed.

A resurfacing of sorts

The CBC documentary does delve more directly into some biographical details of lang's life.

At one point in the film, she discusses growing up in the small town of Consort, where she says she endured less discrimination over her sexuality there than she did later in the city.

"In Consort, I went from Grade 1 to 12 with the same 24 people," she recalled. "So when I came out in Grade 10, everyone was just like: 'Yeah, yeah. We know you.'

"But then coming out in 1992 ... to the whole world, you're just more susceptible because they don't know you. When someone knows somebody intimately, their view of something is so entirely different than when ignorance is involved."

Balletlujah marks a resurfacing of sorts for lang. It's been more than four years since the 53-year-old released an album — the longest break between new music in her career.

Making music means that I have to go into the cycle of press and promotion and that world again — which has exhausted me at this point- k.d. lang on whether making new music is a priority

And asked whether new music is still a priority, she's characteristically candid.

"I'm really wrestling with whether it is or not," she said. "It's such a part of who I am and it will always be a part of who I am, although my interest in the business is so dispersed at this time.

"Making music means that I have to go into the cycle of press and promotion and that world again — which has exhausted me at this point.

"But I am working on a couple things. And I actually just spent a couple months at the Banff Centre, painting and writing.

"So there's stuff percolating. But I'm in no hurry."

With files from CBC News

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