Visions of sugarplums – Local ballerina lands role in Christmas classic

In just a few short weeks, the clock will strike midnight and the stage of the River Run Centre will come alive as young Clara enters the land of the dolls in Ballet Jorgen’s rendition of Christmas classic The Nutcracker.

Thirteen-year-old Arden Day of Fergus has been auditioning for the Guelph show for three years and finally landed a role in both performances slated for Dec. 22 and 23. Day will be playing one of the four squirrels that lead Clara through the forest.

“They’ve taken parts of it and made it more Canadian – like adding woodland creatures,” Day says.

Putting a unique spin on the original Russian performance, Ballet Jorgen has teamed up with the McMichael Canadian Art Collection to give the story a patriotic twist. The production’s landscapes and stunning backdrops have been inspired by the work of the Group of Seven – specifically Franklin Carmichael’s Church and Houses at Bisset and Tom Thomson’s Snow in the Woods – and are filled with snowflakes, lumberjacks, mounties and woodland creatures.

The first audition was in September and Day said she felt more prepared this time around and thinks that is what made the difference.

“They teach you a routine and you have 15 minutes to learn it,” she says. “For the first two years it was hard but this year it wasn’t too bad because after taking so many classes I can kind of just pick it up.”

Day has been dancing for 10 years, eight of them in Elora, and has studied many different styles of dance including ballet, modern, silver, acro, jazz, contemporary, lyrical and tap.

Currently Day is dancing six days a week as part of the All You Can Dance program at the Fergus-Elora Academy of Dance and rehearsing for The Nutcracker every Sunday in Guelph.

“She basically lives here,” says teacher Erica Finlayson.

Although dance instructors are not allowed to be involved in the audition process, Finlayson says they work with students to prepare them for the roles.

“This is something we’ve had the girls do for a least seven years, if not longer. It’s a pretty amazing opportunity for the kids,” she says. “Arden has auditioned now for three years, so [getting the part] makes it that much more enjoyable.”

Local dance students are selected for ensemble positions that accompany the touring cast of Ballet Jorgen.

In the role of a squirrel Day says she will only be performing with other area dancers – three squirrels and four chipmunks – but hopes to land a part next year that places her alongside the regular cast.

“I’ll probably try for a dragonfly next year because they are actually with the professional company dancers on stage,” she says.

Day says she definitely sees herself continuing to pursue dance in the future and is excited about the upcoming performance.

“It’s absolutely awesome. I’m not nervous now, but I think I probably will be by the time the performance comes,” she laughs. “I want to continue doing stuff with dance because I like it and it’s fun – it’s all just interesting to learn.”

Ballet Jorgen’s The Nutcracker will be on stage at the River Run Centre, 35 Woolwich Street in Guelph, Dec. 22 and 23 at 7:30pm.

Tickets start at $44 for adults, $42 seniors and $29 for students.

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