Company Overview

Ariole Alei Dance naturally evolved from the performance career of its Artistic Director, Ariole K. Alei. Born in Vancouver, Canada (birth name Sharon Elise Wehner) in 1961, Ariole K. Alei began dancing at the age of seven, graduating from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Professional Division. She also trained with the Banff Centre, School of Fine Arts and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival as a scholarship student. She toured internationally with the Anna Wyman Dance Theatre for three years including a New York City debut, and nationally with the Judith Marcuse Dance Company for two years including performance in the Calgary Olympics. During her ‘off contract’ periods, Ariole worked freelance in Vancouver with Iris Garland and in Toronto with “Encore! Encore!” historic dance reconstruction projects. The latter included her learning then teaching roles to Vanessa Hargrave as her stand in. As a company dancer, she consistently received accolades for her sensitive and grace-filled performances. " … danced by the special arms and legs of Ariole Alei " (André Paradis, Georgia Straight) “A floating solo for the gifted Ariole Alei is the most convincing artistic reason for its ongoing existence this company has seen in years." (Max Wyman, Vancouver Sun)

Two years into her work with JMDC she broke her knee and hand in a cycling accident. In her process of full recovery, she became inspired to return to dance in a context in which she could offer herself the challenges which she yearned for yet hadn’t been given by other choreographers and Artistic Directors.

ARIOLE ALEI DANCE (then Sharon Wehner Solo Dance) was born. Nine months after the breaking of her knee, Ariole premiered as a solo touring artist and choreographer. She received accolades and full-houses on her first solo tour of "there's a camel on my back" (SWSD, 1989 – Winnipeg, Vancouver, Victoria). Her performances were hailed as a “must see”, a “hot show”, “not to be missed”. She was immediately likened with Margie Gillis and Peggy Baker (her first modern dance teacher).

This inaugural tour culminated in a full-evening performance at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, a performance which was televised on Rogers Cable.

Following this tour, predictions and expectations abounded that Ariole would continue touring solo – now on a much larger scale. Her inner instinct – which had been so keenly ‘awakened’ in the ‘miraculous healing of her knee’ – advised her differently. It urged her to take the next risk – to ‘let go dance’ – temporarily, with the keen inner sense that thus faith that it would someday return.

In the ensuing fourteen years, Ariole kept herself physically fit through daily yoga practice and mentally fit through her meditation practice. (See CV for details of Ariole ’s activities during this fourteen year period.)

In September ’02 Ariole knew that it was time to plunge into dance again. Her first tour in fourteen years once again garnered ovations, sell-out houses, and five star reviews. (“Stunning … easily one of the most alluring performances of the year.” – Monday Magazine – “there’s a camel on my back II” in Victoria and “there’s a camel on my back III” in Vancouver.)

In December ‘03 ARIOLE ALEI DANCE SOCIETY was registered as a non-profit society with an energetic and high-profile Board of Directors. These currently include Ann Mortifee, OC, Honorary Director; Gisa Cole, Chair; Roberto Phillips, Vice Chair; Colin Hillstrom, Treasurer; Laura Murray, Secretary; Alan Wilson; and Ariole K. Alei. The Society was founded with a vision of creating and presenting ensemble and solo works. Its mandate is to re-sensitize and thus awaken the public consciousness through its creation and presentation of stimulating, evocative, thought provoking dance. It has a high commitment to growing and nurturing a strong dance audience – recognizing and meeting a deep soul/spirit need in the public, a need which its productions feed and meet. The Board of Directors is actively engaged in decision making and visioning in all areas of the Company.

In 2003/04 Ariole K. Alei was awarded a Canada Council Production Grant for the creation of “Ascend”, the company’s first full-evening program of ten solo dances (including two intermissions). “Ascend” world premiered at the Waterfront Theatre (Vancouver), April 28 – May 1, 2004.

The premiere run of “Ascend” included several ‘Outreach’ components, including a Matinee specifically for high school students, seniors, and people with special needs, three evening performances, and two “Dancing Into Ecstasy – Dancing From Within” workshops – one pre and one post performance run (a workshop with Ariole developed in London, England to great success.)

In July ’04 ARIOLE ALEI DANCE toured “there’s a camel on my back III” to Winnipeg. Here too it was received with enthusiastic reviews and audience raves. (“She deserves attention.” – Winnipeg Free Press)

In autumn ’04 Ariole was commissioned by the Ballet British Columbia Mentor Program to choreograph two ensemble works. “Kundulaian”, created in honor of lepers and street children and danced by 11 barefoot dancers, received its first public showing at “View New” in Vancouver in December ’04. “L’Esprit Eternel” is a challenging and emotively charged contemporary ballet on pointe. It premiered in March ’05 at the Vancouver International Dance Festival. Both pieces continue to be performed at various venues in Vancouver including 12 Minutes Max, Moberley Arts Centre, and the BBC Mentor’s year end performances.

Ariole was invited to be the Modern Dance Adjudicator for Manitoba Dance Festival’s 25 th Anniversary in May ’05. She enjoyed Mentoring the entrants, as well as teaching Master Classes to both junior and senior dancers.

ARIOLE ALEI DANCE toured a new SOLO production in summer ’05. “Soul Stories” is a dynamic, passionate program of 5 solo dances including remounts of audience favorites by Anna Wyman (‘Umbrella Solo’ from “City Piece”) and Gisa Cole (“Time … rolling, rushing on, swift, silent”), as well as 3 captivating and compassionate works by Ariole. This tour included Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver.

With the commissioning of “Kundulaian” and “L’Esprit Eternel” by the Ballet BC Mentor Program, the creation and presentation of ensemble works as a vision for the company has come to the fore. This vision has become further refined as a marriage of the power of contemporary dance and the detailed aesthetic of classical ballet technique, including the use of pointe. No other companies in Vancouver are engaging or exploring this marriage, with the exception of Ballet British Columbia itself.

“The Astral Plane” & Other Stories, the Company’s 2005/06 proposed project, was envisioned to expand on the Company’s/Ariole’s solo performance mastery (“Alei is brilliant … a master of modern technique.” – The Georgia Straight, review of “Ascend”).  It was thought to solidify the company’s commitment to its refined vision of the marriage of contemporary and ballet languages, aesthetics, and audiences.

This production was planned to include 2 contemporary ensemble works en pointe created by Ariole to orchestral scores by Edgar Meyer and Joni Mitchell, as well as a new solo commission for Ariole by the acclaimed choreographer Serge Bennathan with new music by Arne Eigenfeldt.

The world-premiere of “The Astral Plane” & Other Stories – which was planned to mark the launch of ARIOLE ALEI DANCE as an ensemble company – was to be highlighted by a ‘Gala Opening Night’ performance featuring several of Canada’s most respected artists. The ‘Gala’ was also to include an intimate dinner, allowing patrons to get ‘up close and personal’ with the artists, hearing some of their finest (and perhaps most moving and hilarious) stories of their careers.

The universe coordinates in intriguing ways.  Of eight major grant applications and several Corporate Sponsorship acknowlegments of interest, no funds were received for this production. 

This freed Ariole to co-launch HeartSong Solutions including HeartSong Matchmaking - "the world's first holistic matchmaking service designed for personal growth oriented singles" - as well as HeartSong Couples, Families, and Teens.  She and her husband Colin Hillstrom are publishing four books - to be released September 2006. They are HeartSong: Conversations About Love, Joy and Sex - Discover the Secret to a Fulfilling Love Relationship, When A Man Really Loves A Woman - Why We Must Love More And What To Do About It, Awakening Instinct * Running the Gauntlet * Windows Through Time - a trilogy, and Birds' Eye View - A Travel Guide to the Universe.  For more information, please visit and

For a catalogue of works which the Company has created and produced, please see Artistic Director’s CV.

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