When the celebrated Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) brings its version of the Christmas classic The Nutcracker to the West Coast next month three young Parksville ballet students and their teacher will be there … not to watch, but to take part.
Innovative Dance Arts’ Jennifer Quibell has taken on the roll of tour’s Ballet Mistress for the children’s casts in Nanaimo, Victoria and Vancouver, while Madison Ranger, 9, Clara Keefer, 10, and Natasha Hargreaves, 11, were chosen to dance in the children’s cast during the production’s Nanaimo dates.
“It’s exciting,” said Quibell, who is the director of intensive ballet programming at IDA.
Ranger, Keefer and Hargreaves were three of 60 children aged 7-12 from Campbell River to Mill Bay that auditioned for their rolls. In all, 36 were cast and seven understudies were picked.
“I was excited because at first I didn’t know if I was going to get in,” said Hargreaves.
Quibell, who didn’t have any say in who was picked, said that “it was wonderful” for her girls to be chosen.
The kids will take on the supporting rolls of mice, Mounties, angels and polar bears in the production. According to Quibell, the children’s cast has only four rehearsals to join together and learn their parts before taking the stage. Their final rehearsal is this Saturday. “They work very hard,” she said with pride.
“When we first got there … it was hard to learn the steps,” said Ranger, who has been dancing since she was three.
“It was a fast process,” agreed Keefer.
This is the students’ first opportunity to dance on-stage with professional dancers.
“It’s a wonderful learning experience,” said Quibell, who also mentioned that opportunities like this one don’t happen all that often.
Her enthusiasm is echoed by Deena DeVito-Carl, co-owner of IDA. “We are very excited for the girls to have an opportunity to work with a professional ballet company such as the Royal Winnipeg and be exposed to real professional dance at such a young age,” she said.
“It’s fun,” Hargreaves said of the experience so far, though she did add that the thought of dancing with professionals “a little bit nerve-wracking.”
No matter how nervous the girls get, however, they can dance with the comfort of knowing they’ll have plenty of support in the audience. “We will also be taking a number of our other dancers to see the live production,” said DeVito-Carl.
As for Quibell, this is not her first crack at the The Nutcracker. She has worked with Ballet BC in Vancouver to bring the iconic Christmas show to West Coast audiences for the past five years and has worked with the RWB on a production of this ballet in the past. This year, however, will mark the first time that the prairie company will bring The Nutcracker to the Island. The RWB has also put its own unique spin on the classic, with this version containing Mounties, Parliament Hill, a hockey game and polar bears.
“It has a real Canadian feel to it,” said Quibell. “It’s a lovely production.”
The Nutcracker will be at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo Dec. 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $65 for general admission, $61 for members and $25 for students. To purchase tickets, call the Port Theatre at 250-754-8550.