Maple Ridge dancer Talia Vandenbrink, left, is in this summer’s Bard On The Beach, featuring the Shakespearean play All’s Well That Ends Well. (Photo by Tim Matheson)

Maple Ridge dancer lands role in Bard on the Beach

William Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well runs until August 11

A local dancer has been cast in this years Bard on the Beach in Vancouver.

Talia Vandenbrink auditioned for a part after seeing a Facebook post a day before calling for South Asian dancers.

This is the first production for the Capilano University grad since graduating from the Musical Theatre Program in June.

Vandenbrink will be one of five dancers in the production of William Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, set in India during the finals days of British occupation.

The story follows the plight of Helena, a privileged young Indian woman who secretly loves Bertram, an officer in the British Army. However cultural, social and political barriers stand between them.

Helena, though, doesn’t give up as her journey takes her to the heart of her own culture and identity during a time of dramatic societal change in the country.

For Vandenbrink, it was a production of the 1966 musical Cabaret at Capilano University that propelled Maple Ridge dancer into the career path she is now on.

She was invited by a friend of hers, who was in the production, to come see it.

And just like that she was in tears and knew exactly what she wanted to do in life.

That very same evening Vandenbrink applied to audition for the three-year Musical Theatre Program at the school.

After graduating in June she immediately landed the role in Bard on the Beach.

Vandenbrink first danced with Maple Ridge Dance Circle until she was 10-years-old. Then she danced with the now defunct Maple Ridge Danceworks until she was 15-years-old. At 16 Vandenbrink injured her knee and she took a long break, not getting back into dance until she was 23.

As a child she tried every style of dance she possibly could. When she was really young she loved tap. Then she got into hip hop, even representing the country on a national team.

When she started at Capilano she had to take jazz, ballet and tap every week and her love of tap came right back.

In Bard Vandenbrink will be performing all different styles of Indian dance including Bhangra, a very high energy, fast-paced style of dance found in northwest India and northeast Pakistan.

Vandenbrink had only three weeks of rehearsals.

“I had taken one year of Bollywood dance when I was 15 or 16 and I hadn’t touched it at all for 10 years,” said Vandenbrink who had to perform three different combinations in three different styles of Indian dance for her audition.

“The first couple of days of rehearsal it felt a little weird on my body still. But after a few days it really sank in and it was easy to pick up after that,” she said.

Vandenbrink will be performing in the interlude parts of the show, where the parts of the story that are set in India are explained – without dialogue.

“Because the text is still the Shakespearean text, to kind of explain what is going on at that point of time in India, you have to use interludes,” said Vandenbrink, adding that some interludes use dance and some of them are acted out.

She credits her choreographer, Poonam Sandhu, who helped them to achieve certain feelings while dancing.

Vandenbrink loves the sense of community she has found being part of the cast and says it has been a huge learning experience for her, especially about that time in India’s history.

“Half the cast is South Asian, which is amazing. So a lot of people have their own stories of how their families overcame this or were apart of this and had to immigrate or flee the country,” said Vandenbrink.

Vandenbrink is passionate about dance and she is hoping one day to be able to choreograph musicals.

She loves that any emotion can be expressed by dance.

“Anyway you are feeling there is a style of dance or music that can help you express that.”

Bard on the Beach is celebrating its 30th season this year. It is Western Canada’s largest not-for-profit, professional Shakespeare Festival. Shows are presented along the waterfront in Vancouver’s Vanier Park, and the festival offers Shakespeare plays, related dramas, and several special events in two performance tents from June through September.

All’s Well That Ends Well runs until August 11 at the Howard Family Stage in the Douglas Campbell Theatre.

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