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Columbus Makes Art: BalletMet’s Edwaard Liang on the Inspiration Behind ‘Inspired’

Taylor Starek Taylor Starek Columbus Makes Art: BalletMet’s Edwaard Liang on the Inspiration Behind ‘Inspired’BalletMet Artistic Director Edwaard Liang in rehearsal with dancers Caitlin Valentine-Ellis and Gabriel Gaffney Smith. Photo by Jennifer Zmuda.
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What do Queen and Jane Austen have in common? On March 11, BalletMet will unite the two with Inspired, a triple-bill collaboration with Cincinnati Ballet featuring three distinct works by renowned choreographers.

BalletMet Artistic Director Edwaard Liang stole a moment in between rehearsals to provide insight into the show, the ballet he choreographed and where in Columbus he goes to get inspired.

Taylor Starek: First things first—why is this show titled “Inspired”?
Edwaard Liang: Balanchine was inspired by Gerswhin. I was inspired by Jane Austen and Philip Glass. And Trey McIntyre was inspired by Queen. This show is a collaboration with Cincinnati Ballet, and we find working on collaborations inspiring. We artistically balance each other, and it gives our dancers a chance to perform in a completely different city.

Taylor: Inspired is a mixed rep show. Explain what that means and why BalletMet does shows like this.
Edwaard: A mixed rep or a triple bill is an evening of shorter works, usually around 20 to 30 minutes long each. And you’re not just getting to watch one ballet; you’re watching three to four different ballets. The reason why BalletMet does these works is that I’m personally impassioned by it. These are my favorite programs because I believe this is a ticket around the world. We get to perform ballets by international choreographers, incorporating all their different voices. This is where the dancers really get to show and shine. And this is another reason why we’re able to keep the world-class dancers we have here in Columbus. They want to be choreographed on and to do works by these world-famous choreographers.

Taylor: You choreographed one of the three works in the performance. Where did you find inspiration for Age of Innocence?
Edwaard: At the time when I was choreographing the ballet, I found a lot of inspiration from Jane Austen novels and the book Pride and Prejudice. The title is a little ironic because it’s an Edith Wharton novel, but I thought the title was perfect. The ballet is all about society during that time with arranged marriages and classes, these ballrooms and these court dances were where all the intrigue and social dramas happen.

Taylor: Inspiration can be a tricky thing. Where in Columbus do you go to be inspired?
Edwaard: Many places. My kitchen in German Village, cooking and drinking wine. I’m always inspired at BalletMet, whether it’s with the Company or the 1,700 students that walk through our Academy doors. I’m constantly inspired at all of the hidden culinary gems all over Columbus, like Erawan Thai or Curio or Fox in the Snow.

Taylor: Name a few people who’ve inspired you throughout your life.
Edwaard: So many people have inspired me: [Mikhail] Baryshnikov. Stanley Williams, my ballet teacher. Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese cartoonist who did Princess Mononoke—that inspires so much creativity and imagination for me. Good chefs inspire me. William Forsythe. My partner, John Kuijper.

Taylor: Switching gears here—where do you like to go after a show to wind down and what do you order?
Edwaard: I like to go anywhere with a full bar. I love a Manhattan—sometimes up and sometimes on the rocks with a dark cherry.

See BalletMet and Cincinnati Ballet share the stage in Inspired, March 11-13 at the Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St. For more info or to buy tickets, visit balletmet.org or call 614-229-4860.

Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.

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