Katie Bois spent many hours making faces in the mirror, trying to get just the right look for the lead dancer in the upcoming ballet, Giselle, showing next week in Surrey.
The Langley-born dancer started her professional career in Germany, and has toured internationally.
But she has hung up her ballet slippers and is back in her old stomping grounds now, working behind the scenes in the Coastal City Ballet’s showing of Giselle.
When asked to share the funniest incident, thus far, in preparing for this production, Bois said it was rehearsing for what she called the “mad scene” in Act 1.
The extremes she and others had to undertake were over-the-top hilarious as they tried to get just the right facial reaction for Giselle, when she goes mad and dies of a broken heart after learning the love of her life has betrayed her.
“It’s is one of the hardest, but most rewarding sections of the ballet for the dancer playing Giselle, and can be hard to rehearse,” Bois explained.
But she’ll never forget all the time spent in front of the mirror. “Many times [we] ended up on the floor in tears from laughing,” said the 33-year-old retired ballerina, who is serving as rehearsal director in this production.
Bois, a Brookswood girl almost all her life, works full-time with Coastal City Ballet, Pacific DanceArts (where she trained), and a couple other Lower Mainland dance schools, while also pursuing a business and economics degree at SFU.
In her capacity with Coastal, right now, she took part in auditioning the dancers, serves as the rehearsal director, and is responsible for “setting” the ballet – which means teaching dancers all the steps, formations, and choreography for Giselle.
Working with choreographer Irene Schneider, Bois said it is her job to bring Schneider’s vision of the ballet to life.
“If I do my job well and properly, the choreographer comes 10 days before the premiere and just works on minor details with the dancers and chooses final casting,” she explained to the Langley Advance.
“ My job entails getting the video from the choreographer and then painstakingly learning every single part (more than 50 roles), as well as formations, music, set, and props, and then I turn around and teach it to the company dancers and rehearse them for the months leading up to the premiere.”
The production debuted with a showing at the Vancouver Playhouse last month, and will come to Surrey for one showing next Friday, June 9.
“To be given the opportunity and trust to set a choreographer’s ballet is rare for someone my age, and I am extremely grateful to Coastal City Ballet and to Irene Schneider that they saw a talent in me and trusted me to do it,” Bois said, explaining that this is the sixth full-length ballet she’s worked on for Coastal.
“I love doing it,” she said. “It’s tough for sure, with long days and nights but I love it.”
Stressful two hours
In contrast to her funniest moment in prepping for this show, the Langley Advance also asked what her most rewarding experience has been with Giselle?
“Seeing it all come together,” she said.
“Seeing the dancers excel and knowing that maybe something I said helped them along their path. I love being able to help them achieve their best possible performance.”
So, heading into next week’s showing, Bois said she’s more nervous about this production than any in which she’s danced, noting her parents and aunt will be in the audience – which might add to some of the butterflies.
“As a dancer you only got worried about your own parts and your own dancing. In my role, I get nervous about every dancer, every lighting cue, every music cut, every prop being handled and every set. It makes for a very stressful but very rewarding two hours,” she admitted.
Dancing since age 3
Bois began her ascent into dance when she was three or four years old and took her first dance class at a local community centre here in Langley.
“I think it was dance for me always. I enjoyed all forms. I have done ballet, jazz, lyrical, modern, contemporary, tap, hip hop and musical theatre) but there was something special about ballet. Part of it had to do with the strength and work it demanded, as well as the difficulty of it. But, part of it was also the beauty of ballet. There are not many other art forms quite the same,” she said.
Bois first trained at the former Langley dance school Tri-dance Academy under Mrs. Grant and Mrs. Skinner, studying ballet and modern dance, starting at the age of six.
By the time she was 12, she knew she wanted to pursue ballet professionally and moved to a training school in Vancovuer, Pacific DanceArts – under Li Yaming. At the same time, she also took jazz, lyrical, and tap dance lessons at Darcelle’s Dancers in Coquitlam.
At age 15, she chose to focus all her energies exclusively on ballet and after high school (she graduated from Brookswood Secondary) she travelled Europe for three weeks, and backpacked around several countries while auditioning for ballet companies.
“I was lucky to be offered a position at Stadttheatre Bremerhaven in Germany, and moved there for the following season. That was my first professional experience, and it was wonderful,” Bois shared.
After a year in Germany, she returned to Vancouver, before being given the lead in Paquita on a tour to Mexico, which she described as another “great experience.”
Then, she was off to Fort Worth, Texas to work under renowned choreographer Ben Stevenson. There, she performed Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Alice in Wonderland and Dracula.
She also danced in Brazil as a guest, and took dancers to China as part of a competition.
“[Dance] truly has taken me all over the world!” she said, grateful for the opportunities ballet has given her.
Since then, however, Bois has stepped away from dancing professionally.
“One reason is that age is always a factor and I was ready to settle in one city rather than living from a suitcase, as most dancers do,” she explained.
“But more so, it had to do with the opportunity of Coastal City Ballet. When Li [Yaming] and Andrea [Allen] told me of the idea to begin such a company, I instantly loved the idea and wanted to be part of it,” she said, noting she’s been part of Coastal since its inception in 2011.
“Vancouver is missing out on such great ballets. There is Ballet BC, but it has been many years since they have done a full-length ballet and not really ever a classical one. I thought it was something that Vancouver and the Lower Mainland needed and definitely wanted to be a part of it,” she added.
Months of prep
Bois started working on choreography for this production during her Christmas holidays, then began working with dancers in early January.
They’ve been rehearsing four hours a day ever since then, Mondays through Friday.
“With approximately two hours of dancing time in the ballet, that leaves quite a lot to prepare,” said Bois. But she can’t wait to see it come to life for her hometown crowd next week.
“If you’ve never seen ballet, this is the one to see, as it combines the best of both worlds; a wonderful fairytale storyline that is easy to follow and beautiful ethereal dancing scenes that make Giselle a true classic,” Bois said.
But indications are that the show is sold out.
“I think that many people avoid ballet because they think it will be boring. But, if you’ve never seen a truly classical story-ballet you may be surprised,” Bois said, inviting people to give this ballet a shot.
“I have often met audience members who got dragged with a friend or partner, and then loved it.”