This has been a big year for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Ryan Vetter.
Just two months after being accepted into the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s apprentice program, he was promoted again – this time into the professional corps. Bearing in mind that apprentices normally serve for one or two seasons before a full promotion, this is no easy feat.
Now he is dancing in one of the most famous ballets of our time: Romeo and Juliet. It turns out, however, that until very recently he didn’t really care for the Bard’s tale of star-crossed young lovers.
“When we would read it in school I always thought it was kind of stupid”, Vetter says with a laugh. “They fall in love so fast, it was sort of cheesy.”
His perspective on the story changed quickly when he got involved in the ballet, however, “seeing the ballet version changed my mind completely. I love the story now.”
It turns out that, at least for Vetter, Shakespeare’s oft-quoted text got in the way of the emotional reality of the story, “I think it definitely helps that the music for the ballet is so beautiful. It becomes more universal, and for me it becomes easier to understand. When I hear the music when they’re falling in love at the ball it clicks for me, it makes more sense. And I go ‘oh, this is possible, they’re in love.’”
As a new company member, Vetter is playing a variety of smaller roles, from a member in a troupe of travelling performers doing the Mandolin Dance, to a young man at the Capulet Ball, to Monastery helper who delivers the ill-fated sleeping potion to the priest. While it might be a bit more glamorous to play one of the better-known roles, Vetter seems to enjoy the opportunity for variety, describing the contrast between the different roles. From the “high energy” Mandolin Dance to the “strong and heavy” movements at the Capulet’s Ball, he gets to do quite a lot.
While some gay dancers don’t always connect as well with the heterosexual stories in classical ballets, Vetter loves playing these roles, “I think that love is love and that goes both ways. It is still easy to connect. It’s easy to think about how you would feel if you were the one falling in love at the ball. The fact that it’s a boy and a girl not a boy and a boy or a girl and a girl, it’s all the same.”
He is also optimistic about the future of classical ballets like Romeo and Juliet, even in this modern climate of boundary-pushing contemporary works and pop-culture pieces like the recent Sarah McLauchlin ballet Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.
“I think people like two things. People like stories and people like pop culture. I think that classical ballet will stay very strong because people love seeing a story. People love characters. People also love pop culture. Things like the Elton John and Sarah McLauchlin ballet. Things they know.”
He sees a future where companies continue to create and produce new contemporary works, balanced by the classics that they know and love. This bodes well for Vetter’s future, as he “just wants to dance”, in everything from the contemporary to the classical.
“I like being someone else. I like being different characters. I like trying different movement styles. It’s always exciting when you have a new work and you’re working with new music, and that’s the sort of stuff I live for.”
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet plays Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre January 30 – February 1, 2014. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster online.
Andrea Loewen is a theatre-maker, yoga instructor, writer and ally to the LGBTQ community in Vancouver. She spends her days as the Communications Manager for Pacific Theatre, and is Co-Artistic Producer for Xua Xua Productions, a founding member of Les Petites Taquines Dance Theatre, and the marketing chair for the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards Society. She writes a weekly column for VancouverisAwesome.com and freelances as a yoga instructor and choreographer. When she has some down time she enjoys some green tea and quality time with her cat, Miss Gertie Marie. Follow Andrea on Twitter or find her online at http://www.andrealoewen.com.