BalletMet's Edwaard Liang on Breaking (and Keeping) Tradition

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Ballet is embracing pop culture(who hasn't seen Sergei Polunin dance to Hozier's "Take Me To Church"?), and BalletMet is not about to be left behind. With a new logo, performances to the tunes of Cyndi Lauper and David Bowie and live electric cello performances by ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, the vision of artistic director Edwaard Liang is leading our hometown company far beyond princesses and tulle (while still keeping the princesses and tulle).

Tell us about the new branding.

When I got here, it was really important for me to move BalletMet toward the direction that I see a lot of dance companies moving: hi-def video, beautiful photography, updated headshots on our website. The logo came out of necessity. The last logo was 10 to 15 years old and was very similar to Cincinnati and Dayton ballets'. Itwasn't able to show up on phones and devices as well as this new logo. It's a perfect time to refresh the look. We wanted to set ourselves apart.

You've said season premiere "Breaking Ballet" (Oct. 2 to 10) "will confront your perception of ballet." How so?

When people think ballet, they think tutus and pink and pretty little things. I want to challenge what ballet looks like. Dancers are more athletic than they were 10 years ago. Dance is a universal language. Hopefully people don't think it's stodgy and not with the times.

Is the company going contemporary?

BalletMet is stretching in both directions. We're still a ballet company. By the end of the season, we'll [have done] "Sleeping Beauty," 16 shows of "The Nutcracker" and full nights of different classical ballets. Then we have something extremely contemporary: "Carmen," and David Nixon's "Dracula," which is otherworldly. My plan is to bring a little bit of everything: contemporary, modern and super classical ballet-everything that is already BalletMet.

Do you plan to capitalize on the recent popularity of ballet, a la Misty Copeland?

I'm smiling. I'm really happy that people are seeing dance in all different ways, whether through TV, magazines or print ads or on the street. I'm really happy to see how the dance landscape is moving forward. It's one of the reasons that I moved to Columbus. This community wants and supports and loves BalletMet. It wants us to succeed and thrive.