Four Summerside girls chosen to rehearse alongside Ballet Jörgen this weekend

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Romeo and Juliet comes to Harbourfront stage tonight at 7:30 p.m.

Canada’s Ballet Jörgen is back in Summerside, and they’re giving some local youth a chance to experience being part of a professional ballet company with Saturday’s performance of “Romeo & Juliet.”

Nicola Walls, 15, left, and Katie Strongman, 16 are two of the girls selected to perform in the , and said they’re excited to rehearse with a ballet company.

Sheree Gurnell, teacher at Summerside’s Danspirations, selected four of her students – Sarah Hall, Katie Strongman, Robyn Doran and Nicola Walls – to participate in the program.

They had a rehearsal Friday with a few of the Ballet Jörgen cast members.

“We’ll basically place them in the roles we feel they’d best fit, and then (Saturday) they’ll be doing a practice with them.”

Tomorrow afternoon, the girls will get to watch the master class onstage, and practice for several hours with the cast.

“Then they get to perform. And on Sunday morning, we have some of the cast members coming to do a master class for some of our other students as well.”

“It’s exciting. It doesn’t happen everyday,” said Walls, one of the dancers chosen to participate in a master class offered by the company this weekend.

Walls and Strongman have been dancing since they were toddlers, and have both been selected from Gurnell’s class .

“Going through the experience of seeing the other dancers will be exciting,” Strongman said.

Gurnell said for a lot of the girls, ultimately, performing is the end result of their hard work.

“So having even the slightest opportunity to do that is always a good thing.”

As a school, they only hold a recital once a year, in June.

“The recital is the only time for them to get to perform.”

This gives them an additional chance to test their skills.

The girls will get to observe a day in the life of a ballerina, she said.

“I think it’s an eye-opener to some of them, if they have any dreams of becoming one, to see what the life is like.”

Clea Iveson, Ballet Jörgen’s longest-serving member and education manager, said three of the company’s dancers will be coaching the girls.

“We’ll work with the music, dancers and choreography to make sure they feel comfortable in their characters and staging, in terms of where they have to be when and what their steps are.”

Most of the students will have two roles with two entrances during the first act of the company’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

“They’ll rehearse what they did tonight, but with the entire company.”

Costumes, lights, music, and an artistic director will be watching. After all the hard work comes a dinner break, and then the show itself, she said.

The Ballet Jörgen company tours the country with performances – currently “Romeo and Juliet,” playing at the Harbourfront Theatre Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The company is heading to Halifax and St. John’s later this month.

“I think it’s a great experience for both parties, for us as a company and all the various students we work with. It really gives those students a chance to immerse themselves in that professional dance company environment.”

They can really absorb what goes on, and what it takes to be a dancer, by being there, meeting people, and watching it happen. It’s an opportunity for students to see what dance can bring, beyond the training they’re doing in their own studios, she said.

“And for our dancers, connection to people in the communities that you dance in, you feel the deeper resonance of what you do as an artist, and how important it really is to mentor future artists. This is where the art form is really going to be enriched.”

They want the students to enjoy being on stage, to add to the show by being fully, 150 per cent committed to their role, Iveson said.

“It doesn’t matter how big or small the role is, the most important thing is having that commitment.”

Iveson said as a retired dancer, she loves coming to Summerside each year.

“It’s a warm place to dance, when it comes to the people and appreciation for the art form.”

By Maddie Keenlyside - Journal Pioneer

Organizations: Ballet Jörgen, Harbourfront Theatre

Geographic location: Summerside, Halifax

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