|Hollie Jordan, Olivia Patiakas, Matthew Benso|
Marris Castonguay and Christine Benson
When Ballet Master Isabel Cortina claps her hands to signal the end of class, twenty-three exuberantly smiling girls and boys dressed variously in pink and black leotards, curtsy and bow as one. For six hours every Sunday from September through to opening night of The Nutcracker Ballet on December 9th anywhere from twenty to sixty children coming from fifteen dance studios across Southern Ontario gather for rehearsal at The Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble's studio in
Hamilton. And, when Ana Maria Leyte, Ballet Master with the Nacional Ballet de Cuba, arrives in a week, she will exact the finishing touches on the children's training. The Nutcracker Ballet, now in it's fifteenth year of production has been presented jointly by the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble and the internationally acclaimed Nacional Ballet de Cuba since 2007.
Able to boast not only the world-renowned, highly respected Alicia Alonso as their founder and Artistic
Director, The Nacional Ballet de Cuba includes amongst it's members four who have been named amongst the world's best dancers of the season by the prestigious Dance Europe magazine. Gary Smith, who writes for Dance Europe, Dance International, Ballet Review as well as The Hamilton Spectator says, "The most gloriously old-fashioned, technically pure, amazingly passionate company in the world today is Ballet Nacional de Cuba.”
Taking on the dual roles of Mouse and Candy, Holly Jordan of Hamilton is honoured to dance in The Nutcracker amongst the world's greats, "When I learned of Alicia Alonso's story she inspired me with her passion for ballet. Not only was she a prima ballerina in many countries, she is also a founder and director of the National Ballet of Cuba. And now, she has given me the chance to be taught by some of the top professional dancers in the world here in Hamilton! I'm very grateful."
Belma Diamante, CEO of The Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble describes the production of The Nutcracker Festival, which includes events such as The Artcracker, The Mixcracker, A Victorian Christmas at Sunnyside and the Chocolate Dream in addition to The Nutcracker Ballet, as a massive undertaking requiring countless hours from it's one hundred or so volunteers. Of the ballet performances, she is emphatic,
"The real proof of an excellent ballet is not in what goes on around it. Special effects, eye-popping costumes, dramatic lighting all lend to the spectacle but, they cannot make a ballet come alive. The magic of The Nutcracker Ballet of Hamilton is in the spirit of the dancers, the highly-talented children who come from Kitchener-Waterloo, Mississauga, Oakville, Milton, Burlington, Ancaster, Waterdown and Hamilton and the world-famous professionals of the Nacional Ballet de Cuba with their technically demanding choreography and intensely expressive story telling ability ~ this is what will impress audiences the most."
Diamonte goes on to note that this year, Tchaikovsky's score will be performed by The Hamilton Ballet Orchestra conducted by the illustrious Maestro Giovanni Duarte. When asked whether dancing to a live orchestra would influence her performance, Hollie Jordan says,"A live orchestra will make it more like a dream and I will dance my very best".
The Nutcracker Festival 2011, whose sponsors include Evans Sweeney Bordin Law Firm, Sheraton Hamilton Hotel and Claudio's Ristorante, is not short of luminaries from the world of dance and the arts. Both Toller Cranston, world champion figure skater and much-lauded artist as well as Veronica Tennant, one of Canada's most beloved Prima Ballerinas, have also lent their considerable talents to the production and are expected as special guests at The Nutcracker Ballet's opening performance and reception. When Emily Voigt of Waterdown, who will dance the roles of Mouse and Candy, was asked what single question she might pose to the world-famous Cranston and Tennant when she meets them, she replied,"I would ask them what is the very best thing they ever got to do in their career".
Older sister Brynn Voigt who has danced in The Nutcracker for the past five years in the roles of Mouse, Candy and Party Girl is very excited to have been chosen as this year's Clara. Brynn describes some of her favourite things about The Nutcracker Ballet, "The costumes and scenery are truly entrancing and make you feel like you are really there. Other than my own role, my favourite character is Drosselmeyer. I like him because he has a magical ability in the way he dances that just makes you smile." While Brynn may prefer the mysterious clockmaker, Christina Benson of Hamilton, age 8, who along with her brother Matthew, age 10, are dancing as Mice, says her favourite character "...is Clara because she seems so brave to see all the mythical creatures like the giant mice, the Nutcracker and his toy soldiers come to life".
With the hustle and bustle of final fittings of costumes and pointe shoes being readied in the background, the last word goes to Emily Voigt who, when asked who she thought should come to see the Hamilton Place performances, replied with a disarming smile,"Everyone should come to see The Nutcracker Ballet of Hamilton because it is breathtakingly beautiful and I’m in it!"