Rowan Catel and Carlos Narvaez perform in Olympic Ballet Theatre’s production of “Efanora,” available to stream through April 30 via YouTube. (Into Dust Photography)

Rowan Catel and Carlos Narvaez perform in Olympic Ballet Theatre’s production of “Efanora,” available to stream through April 30 via YouTube. (Into Dust Photography)

Olympic Ballet Theatre returns with two virtual performances

“Efanora” and “In a Clearing” explore pandemic-era themes of loss, fear and grief through movement.

EDMONDS — The Olympic Ballet Theatre is presenting two virtual productions this April — its first since COVID-19 hit Snohomish County.

You can watch “Efanora,” choreographed by Vincent Michael Lopez with Spectrum Dance Theater, and “In a Clearing,” choreographed by Karl Watson with Whim W’Him Contemporary Dance Co., via YouTube. The videos will be available through April 30.

Three Olympic Ballet performances were canceled because of the pandemic: “The Sleeping Beauty,” “Summer Performance” and “The Nutcracker.” Its Dinner and Auction also was put on hold.

Though Olympic Ballet presented performances of 2019’s “Nutcracker” — either recorded at the Everett Performing Arts Center or the Edmonds Center for the Arts — the April recordings are the first time in more than a year that the dancers performed on a stage.

Both contemporary productions, “Efanora” and “In a Clearing” reflect on the once-in-a-lifetime experiences we’ve all been having because of the pandemic. They explore themes of loss, fear, grief, hope, grace and love through movement.

Olympic Ballet’s own Rowan Catel, Alberto Gaspar, Elianna Langley, Carlos Narvaez, Anisa Sinteral and Blythe Wittig are featured in one or both dances.

Sinteral, 28, of Bothell, has been with Olympic Ballet since 2019. Sinteral performs in a trio representing three muses in “Efanora,” followed by a more centralized character in “In the Clearing.”

At 6-foot — and 2 inches taller when she’s en pointe — Sinteral had been told many times she shouldn’t be a ballerina. But she’s been dancing since she was 8. Sinteral was lucky to find mentors who didn’t think her height should limit her.

“Working with Karl and Vincent was such a wonderful opportunity,” she said. “As artists, we’ve been confined in the pandemic. Dancing is such freeing movement, but we didn’t have the creative outlet. This opportunity really shined a light for me and reminded us all why we dance.”

Lopez is a choreographer and a dancer with Spectrum Dance Theater in Seattle. He choreographed “Efanora,” which was filmed for digital release on April 2. The year 2020 was a hard one for Lopez: His father-in-law died of cancer, aunt died of COVID-19 and a friend took his own life. His choreography is an attempt to express the feelings he bottled up during the pandemic.

“Efanora” is the second in a three-part series of Lopez’s. “Efa” is a Hebrew derivative for the word “darkness” and “nora” is the Latin word for “light.” The dancers, in each of their roles, embody how Lopez was feeling at the time. In “Efanora,” the darkness overtakes and the production plays out like a nightmare.

“‘Efanora’ is dark then light, with a lot of curiosities and oddities,” he said. “It’s dealing with a lot of pain (felt from) multiple losses that happened over COVID.”

Lopez, of Mercer Island, said the masks in which two dancers are attached at the mouth with 2-foot-long threads in “Efanora” represent the connection we feel to each other. The two artistic structures they dance around signify lightness and darkness; life and death.

“It’s speaking to that tethered effect you have when you’re attached to someone,” Lopez said of the masks he designed. “When you’re close to someone, you can feel how they feel. My husband will be stressed out in the other room, and I’ll know something’s wrong.”

Rowan Catel, 25, of Seattle, has been dancing with Olympic Ballet for four years. She performs a pas de deux with her boyfriend, Narvaez, in both virtual productions. Of note, in “Efanora” Catel and Narvaez were the masked couple attached by threads. Although they also had some solos to represent loneliness in the pandemic.

Catel’s been dancing since she was 5 years old. It’s how she best expresses herself.

“Having the pandemic and having to take that year off for something that was not an injury was really difficult,” Catel said. “Because dance is one of those things I’ve been doing as long as I can remember, it’s how I define myself.

“The time off was not fun. I’m really excited to be dancing again.”

Watson is a dancer and choreographer with Whim W’Him Contemporary Dance Co. in Seattle. He choreographed “In a Clearing,” which will be released digitally on April 9. The exercise helped him deal with a lot of tragedy, stress and anxiety from the past year and find the peace to move forward. “In the Clearing” makes space and time for that kind of reflection.

“I wanted to create a space for the audience to reflect their own experiences,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll see parts of themselves or find ways of projecting their own experience onto the work so that it might serve as a way of processing the loss and grief.”

Watson, of Seattle, divided the production into three sections: feeling stuck in the mess of COVID-19, then finding space and time to be yourself, followed by a sense of relief and a clearing of the mind.

“With mine, I hope it can feel like a sense of release from the nightmare,” Watson said, comparing his work to “Efanora.” “Maybe not resilience quite yet, but a peek at progress or resolution.”

Both virtual productions of “Efanora” and “In a Clearing” are free to watch, but there is a suggested donation of $25. If you’d rather not search for the donation button on Olympic Ballet’s website that goes with each video recording, go to www.olympicballet.org/support/donate.

If you steam

Watch two virtual Olympic Ballet Theatre productions via YouTube in April. One recording is a performance of “Efanora,” choreographed by Vincent Michael Lopez with Spectrum Theater. The other is a performances of “In a Clearing,” choreographed by Karl Watson with Whim W’Him Contemporary Dance Co. Both productions are free, but there is a suggested donation of $25. Call 425-774-7570 or go to www.olympicballet.org for more information.

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