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May 16, 2021

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Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, ballet join forces

Columbia Dance will perform Act 2 of ‘Swan Lake’ at orchestra’s annual holiday concert

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Performers with Columbia Dance will join the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra for holiday concerts Saturday and Sunday at Skyview High School.
Performers with Columbia Dance will join the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra for holiday concerts Saturday and Sunday at Skyview High School. Troy Wayrynen/Columbia Dance Photo Gallery

Imagine formations of elegant swans, dancing to a lush symphonic score. That’s what you will see if you attend the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s holiday concert this weekend. Only the swans will be ballet dancers, of course, and the music will be from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”

“We are excited to perform a scene from Act 2 of ‘Swan Lake,’ ” said Jan Hurst, artistic director of Columbia Dance. “That’s the one that has the dance of the little swans, the dance of the tall swans, and the flock of swans by the lake. In the ballet world, it is called the White Act. The dancers are in their white tutus, and it is very beautiful.”

The performance will be the first time that the orchestra has collaborated with a dance ensemble at Skyview High School Concert Hall. Hurst is bringing 15 of the company’s best dancers, and it will be interesting to see how everyone fits onstage.

“We taped off a section of our studio and did some creative problem solving,” said Hurst. “We are used to dancing on a stage that is 30 feet wide and 40 feet deep. It will be a challenge to dance on a stage that is 10 feet wide by 70 feet long. But this is a wonderful opportunity, and we have figured out how to make it work.”

Hurst has danced “Swan Lake” many times, and it is one of her favorite ballets. She started dance lessons at age 6 in Portland and attended the University of Utah, where she earned Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees as a ballet major. She taught at the San Francisco Ballet and has been the artistic director of several regional ballet companies. For the past 22 years, she has been at the helm of Columbia Dance, including its dance school, which has 150 students.

If You Go

 What: VSO holiday concert with Columbia Dance.

 When: 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9.

 Where: Skyview High School Concert Hall, 1300 N.W. 139th St., Vancouver.

 Cost: $50 reserved seats, $38 general admission, $34 seniors, and $10 students.

“It will be amazing to dance with a live orchestra,” remarked Hurst. “We have to be sensitive in dancing so close to the musicians.”

Closeness is one important factor. Another is the stage’s hardwood floor.

“We would normally do the performance in point shoes,” explained Hurst, “but point shoes make noise on hard floors. We won’t have the special flooring that is used for dance performances. So, if the noise is too noisy and distracting from the music, we will switch to ballet slippers. We will figure this out during rehearsal.”

“Swan Lake” is one of the most famous ballets ever written. It tells the story of Odette, a young girl doomed by an evil sorcerer. There is love, betrayal, and the triumph of good over evil, but a performance of the entire ballet would take a couple of hours. So, the first half of the concert will include several purely musical selections from the ballet, including the waltz, the Hungarian dance, and the Spanish dance.

The second half of the concert will feature light favorites, kicking off with the overture to Franz von Supp?’s operetta “Light Cavalry.” While the operetta is rarely performed today, the overture has remained one of the most popular ever written, because of the stirring trumpet passage. If there are kids in the audience, they will be bopping up and down in their seats when they hear the trumpets.

The orchestra will also play Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Auf der Jagd” (“On the Hunt”) polka. The piece, based on melodies from Strauss’ operetta “Cagliostro in Wien” (“Cagliostro in Vienna”), features a pistol shot, which might be replicated with a slapstick in the percussion section.

At last year’s holiday concert, the orchestra played Johann Strauss Sr.’s “Radetzky March,” and it was such a hit that it is back on the program. Be ready to clap your hands in rhythm when music director Salvador Brotons gives you the signal.

The concert will wind up with three pieces by Leroy Anderson, starting with “The Typewriter,” a clever and witty number that uses a modified typewriter for the soloist. It remains the most popular piece ever written for typewriter and orchestra.

The “Bugler’s Holiday” is another snappy tune that is an audience favorite. It will feature the orchestra’s trumpet section and is packed with crisp, rapid-fire phrases for the trumpeters.

As a grand finale, the orchestra will perform Anderson’s “A Christmas Festival,” which is another popular repeat from last year’s concert. You’ll hear carols like “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night” and secular numbers such as “Deck the Halls” and “Jingle Bells.” The music should put everyone in the holiday spirit.

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