This year, Ballet Jörgen celebrates the 15th anniversary of the company’s uniquely Canadian re-telling of The Nutcracker. The seasonal classic returns to River Run Centre on December 20th and 21st. Joining the professional dancers of Ballet Jörgen are young dancers from Guelph and surrounding area, including four dancers who will tour across Ontario with the production.
Set in the early 1900’s and nestled in the heart of Ontario’s wilderness, The Nutcracker – A Canadian Tradition is choreographed by Bengt Jörgen to Tchaikovsky’s much-loved score.
A homegrown Nutcracker, this ballet brings to life the magical tale of Klara’s Christmas dream and her amazing journey through Algonquin Park, filled with snowflakes, trilliums, and creatures of the woods. “The charming production… features beautifully rendered backdrop reproductions of iconic works by Carmichael, Thomson, and FitzGerald and is ideally suited for young audiences. With its Edwardian setting in Algonquin and all its animal characters, from beavers and bullfrogs to skunks and squirrels., Jörgen’s …Nutcracker is adorable even before it starts wagging its tails.” (Michael Crabb, National Post)
Bengt Jörgen – Creating The Nutcracker – A Canadian Tradition
Founded in 1987, Ballet Jörgen is one of Canada’s largest dance companies and this country’s leading touring company. Artistic Director and Co-Founder, Bengt Jörgen reimagined the Nutcracker story in a Canadian context. He explains, “By setting our new production in a small, rural Ontario community, I was able to connect the production to a more interesting set of characters and firmly anchor it in our own heritage.”
The ballet begins in the small village of Bisset, Ontario where the community is gathering for Christmas festivities in the local schoolhouse. Klara arrives with her nutcracker toy. After tragedy befalls her beloved doll Klara drifts off to sleep and the magic begins.
Jörgen says, “I am particularly delighted to have created a ballet connected to one of my favorite pastimes, canoeing in Algonquin Park.” As Act Two opens, a canoe carries Klara and her Nutcracker companion into an Algonquin summer forest populated by delightful woodland creatures such as raccoons, loons, and bears. This season, audiences will see some new forest animals have hopped into the second act – three adorable bunnies.
Created in collaboration with the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, three Group of Seven paintings frame the story as backdrops and offer a very Canadian viewpoint. Jörgen says, “I hope this production has succeeded in some small way to combine the magic of painting with the magic of dancing into an enjoyable and moving perspective of Canadian art.”
Four Guelph dancers on the road with Ballet Jörgen
Ballet Jörgen is committed to education and outreach in the communities the company serves across Canada. Most of the story ballets in the company repertoire include a few roles for young local dance students. In The Nutcracker, there are roles for young dancers to perform in their home community as well as roles that tour with the company. Last summer, four talented young dancers from Guelph were selected to be part of Ballet Jörgen’s touring cast for The Nutcracker.
Fifteen-year-old Julia Betini won the coveted role of Klara, the young girl around whom the story is centred. Julia says, “I didn’t believe that I had it because they always say roles are subject to change. But after a few rehearsals I could tell this was the real thing. I’m really excited. I don’t think the nerves have kicked in yet.” Julia’s home dance school is Royal City School of Ballet & Jazz.
Returning to the Nutcracker touring cast again this year is fifteen-year-old Jessie Marshall of Performance Dance Academy. Jessie first auditioned to perform in the Guelph Nutcracker shows in 2016 and has since danced many different youth roles. This year she looks forward to being a floppy Sock Bunny and the Woodchopping Girl. “I’m ecstatic to work with the company. When I got the news that I will be performing again, it was amazing. I’m so happy.”
Pearl Harp and Hailey Berger, both fourteen, have previously danced with the Guelph local cast. This year they join the touring cast for the first time and appear as children in the party scene and as various animals. Pearl, who hails from Royal City School of Ballet & Jazz says, “I’m so excited because now I get to do many more shows and dance with the company. I have a lot more rehearsal time and get more one-on-one time with Bengt Jörgen and the entire company.” Coming from Connections Dance Collective, Hailey has had her eyes on The Nutcracker for some time. She says, “I was fascinated by The Nutcracker since I first saw it at the age of seven and I’m just so excited to be involved in this year’s performances.”
These dancers put in long and intense rehearsal hours in Toronto where they work with the professional dancers of Ballet Jörgen. But they are all enthusiastic about performing for their family and friends and touring to communities across the province.
Sharing the magic
In the spirit of seasonal giving, the community is invited to support the work of Family and Children’s Services of Guelph and Wellington County. By pledging a ticket at the discounted price of $20, patrons can give a seat to a child or family who might otherwise not be able to attend The Nutcracker. Ask the River Run Centre Box Office about Share the Magic.
The performances at the River Run Centre in Guelph are,
- Wednesday, December 20th at 7:30pm and
- Thursday, December 21st at 7:30pm
For the River Run Centre performances, all seats are reserved.
- Adults $55/$50
- Seniors $51/$46
- Youth $38/$33
- Premier seating is $78.00
Prices include HST. Additional service charges may apply.
Tickets are now on sale at River Run Centre box office at (519) 763-3000 or 1-877-520-2408 or online here.