When your dream tastes like coffee!

6 ballet dancers standing side by side, wearing black leotards and pink tights with their hands in prayer position. © Jane Rylaarsdam, Aisha Winfield-Khan, Beatriz Silveira Portella, Eden Haley, Juliane Bélisle and Clara Shales.
7 ballet dancers in costumes. Crop top and blue genie pants.

With its equally popular music and choreography, the holiday classic The Nutcracker transports us instantly to the kingdom of the Sugar Plum Fairy, the Rat King, and enchanted figurines. A few notes from Tchaikovsky's magnificent score and a Pas de deux will make even the grumpiest in the audience smile and feel like a kid again. Costumes, choreography, and catchy melodies instantly immerse us in the year’s most festive season.

For some young dancers, The Nutcracker is the first step towards their dream of becoming a professional dancer one day.

This year, more than 40 young dancers from the region are participating in Les Grands Ballets Canadiens production created by Fernand Nault. Soaking up all the knowledge and experience of their Rehearsal Master, André Laprise, they have been rehearsing for several weeks to be finally ready to put on the costumes and step onto the magnificent stage of Southam Hall.

Mice, rats, and reindeers, they auditioned and invested several hours to get one step closer to their dream which, for some, was still just a wish a few months ago.

On a gray Sunday in November, we went to the Académie de danse de l’Outaouais to witness their rehearsal. One of the choreographies particularly caught our attention, that of the Coffee Tableau, which will be presented in the second part. This suite brings together magnificent ballerinas from different dance schools in the Ottawa-Gatineau region and Montreal. Clara Shales, Juliane Bélisle, Eden Haley, Beatriz Silveira Portella, Jane Rylaarsdam and Aisha Winfield-Khan kindly agreed to answer some of our questions and share their experience with us.

NAC: It's confirmed. You finally have your role in The Nutcracker! Tell me, what are you looking forward to the most?

Clara and Juliane: We can’t wait to feel the energy backstage! It’s such a big production; it’s going to be magical! The energy level will be so high!

Eden: I've never seen this company's version, so I'm super excited to see the costumes and sets.

Béatriz: To have the chance to create friendships from rehearsal to rehearsal.

Jane: I'm excited to dance with professional dancers.

Aisha: I love being backstage. You feel the stress and the excitement, and you can watch the professionals go through this moment at the same time as you.

NAC: Since starting your rehearsals, what have you found most challenging?

Clara: In our tableau, we need to be connected and united to dance in sync. Since we didn't know each other before the start of rehearsals, I found it challenging to create a bond between us so that the audience would feel it. This is the part I find the hardest right now.

Eden: It's a choreography that requires much control, and we must practice this while incorporating precise steps. The music is very slow, which adds an element of difficulty. We are working very hard on this.

For Jane and Aisha, it's more about taking ownership of the movements so that they become more natural.

Jane: I find it challenging to find my style for specific movements. We have to execute them, but we also have to style them.

Aisha: I find it challenging to incorporate elegance into this choreography since it is entirely different from the style I am used to dancing.

NAC: Did you find a trick to create this unity in the group, given that you only see each other once a week?

Clara: In one of our last rehearsals, we felt that something was shifting. We also do exercises during rehearsals, such as practicing our choreography in a circle while looking each other in the eye to try to connect. Sometimes we do it with our backs turned to feel the others without seeing them.

Juliane: The stories that André tells allow us to have the same interpretation and understanding of the scene. He also gives names to the steps other than the technical ones to help us remember the emotion we feel at that moment.

We concluded the interview with a... sweet question!

NAC: Knowing that in this version of The Nutcracker, the audience will be transported to the Kingdom of Candyland and meet the one and only Candy King, I’m curious to know, what is YOUR favourite candy?

Clara: I often have a Mars bar in my hand!

Juliane: I just rediscovered Sour patch kids… the blue ones are my favourite!

Eden: I go for the classic, the Kit-Kat bar

Béatriz: Definitely a Kit-Kat bar!

Jane: CHOCOLATE!

Aisha: “I love Twix bars” admits Aisha, shyly.

Whether they chose to audition for a specific role or to live the experience, these students have now leaped, says André Laprise. “You are no longer students; you are now young apprentices. When you go on stage, don't be shy. Fill the space. Play the part! »

These young girls will dance in all six sold-out performances of The Nutcracker from December 1 to 4, 2022.


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