Three local dancers to appear in Ballet Jorgen’s Nutcracker

December 14, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

Three young ballet dancers from Orangeville, students of Citrus Dance are participating in Jorgen Ballet Company’s Nutcracker at River Run Theatre in Guelph on Thursday and Friday, December 19 and 20. 

Leah Johnstone, 10, dances at Citrus under the tutelage of Cecile Thomas. As her mother, Sheri Johnstone, told us, “Cecile posted the auditioning flyer at the studio and it was up to the girls to contact the studio. It was quite the process. Leah had never auditioned like that before but friends from the studio had been there before and told her what to expect.

“She a little nervous but she is a very confident dancer and quite good speaking to adults. They’ve been rehearsing since September but Leah has a small role [as a frog]. So, she’s been rehearsing every other week.”

Mrs Johnstone added, “The ladies doing the choreography are quite impressed how quickly the girls are learning their roles. Leah has never been to the original Nutcracker. She’s seen the cartoon rendition.”                                                                                         She added, “Her second year in competitive ballet is coming.”

As a parent, doing the driving and supporting Leah to do this show, she reflected personally, “It’s a Christmas show. I thought of my parents. We had kind of gotten away from it and we used to go every year. To me, the motivation was family entertainment and a tradition that we had got away from.”

Her observation of ballet, “Training to do ballet properly takes a lot of effort from mind and body. She really loves hip hop too.”

When there was a moment to chat to Leah after her class at Citrus, she commented about the Jorgen Nutcracker, “This is an opportunity to dance out of my studio with professional dancers  They’re very nice. I’m learning from dancers more technique and how not to get  nervous. The audition was great;  I was very nervous because it was my first professional audition, well, my first at all.”

Nine-year-old Ella Godfrey has been dancing since she was 2 1/2 years old.

“She just loved to dance since she was a little. So, we put her in dance and she has loved it ever since,” said her mother, Alaina Godfrey. “She auditioned last year for Jorgen and now, she’s  doing her second year. That is her passion.

“She auditioned and was accepted at the professional ballet school in Toronto, for a week. She certainly has the aspiration for staying in dance. We’ll support her dreams in whatever she decides to be.”

They have taken her to see the National Ballet dance the  original Nutcracker.

“Ella loves the Canadian switch [in the Jorgen Nutcracker]. She’s dancing in the Thursday night show (December 19). Our whole family and extended family are going.” The whole opportunity is, “To be able to have that experience. They are very professional and very helpful with the youth.

“It’s her smile and her joy – you can tell she just loves it. Her brother plays baseball  – all year round.”

Ballet Jorgen is in its 16th year of bringing the Nutcracker to the River Run Theatre in Guelph. The Canadian version of the traditional ballet tale, danced to the famous music of Tchaikovsky, uses images from three of the Group of Seven artists as its backdrops and places the set in the Canadian near north.

Franklin Carmichael’s Church and Houses painting is on the scrim for viewing as the audience settles in. Tom Thomson’s Snow in the Woods is the backdrop to the whole set, right across the stage in the first act. Act Two sees  L.L Fitzgerald’s Flowers across the backdrop.

Carolynn Clark, publicist for Ballet Jorgen, told us the how and why. “This Canadian version of Nutcracker was choreographed by the designers of Ballet Jorgen and premiered in Charlottetown in 2008, so, we’re now celebrating 10 years.

“The use of the Group of Seven paintings is in collaboration with McMichael’s Gallery. We have to have permission to use them. The story takes place in the near north by Algonquin Park. The first scene is in a one room schoolhouse.

“In the second act,” she continued, “Clara’s dream journey is in a summer woodland and all the animals you would expect to see in a Canadian woods are there- racoons, chipmunks – frogs.”

Ballet Jorgen performs other works as well through the year. It is the most toured ballet company in the Canada.

For this Nutcracker, they tour 15 communities and do 22 performances. They began this year, on November 14 in Saskatchewan, with the rest  here in Ontario.

“Our mission is to bring quality professional ballet across Canada to communities that wouldn’t normally see it there.”

For the River Run, they accepted 24 girls from around the vicinity.

Ms Clark explained, “We want to give them a professional experience. They went through the audition process complete and then rehearsals are the Royal City School of Ballet and Jazz.”

With two shows, some of the parts are divided amongst the girls.

“It’s a great opportunity. For those considering a career in dance, this is a taste of what it is like. Some of the slightly older girls come with us on tour.”

Lilly Anne Taylor, the third and youngest of the three at eight years old,  is having her first year with the Ballet Jorgen company.

Her mother,  Teena Taylor told us Lilly has been watching all her friends – she’s one of the youngest. 

“The last two years, we’ve gone to watch the others dance and she told me she couldn’t wait ’til she could try the audition. She loves all of it. She can’t wait to watch the racoons go on before her and they’re on point.

“Lilly loves working with the professions, watching them go on point . She’s looking forward to getting her own point shoes in a couple of years.”

Lilly, too, has been dancing since she was 2 1/2, starting with creative dance and some jazz and ballet.

“This her third year in competition,” Teena Taylor said. “She went into ballet and jazz, then Acro and hip hop – then lyrical. Mainly, she loves the ballet.”

She added, “All three girls are going up for their exams -grade two this year. We haven’t seen the original Nutcracker  yet but I think that’s on.

At Ballet Jorgen, “They’ve been absolutely wonderful – this has been a wonderful experience for Lilly and I’m very happy for her.”

She said, “What is best – two years ago, she was six and I didn’t know if it was going to be too long a performance but she was on the edge of her seat with her hands clasped. I said we’d come back in a couple of years to see it again and she told me, “You’re going to be in the audience and I’m going to be on the stage.”

“On Sunday, when we have to go, she’s ready to go. She performs on the Friday.”

Ms. Taylor remarked of her daughter, “She’s very shy but not on the stage – dancing is her passion.”

Tickets are available at River Run Centre Box Office at (519)763-3000 or 1-877-520-2408 or

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