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(Updated 8:30 a.m., Dec. 8)
Jörgen Nutcracker production has distinctive local flavour

By Heather Jamieson
Orléans Online

Heather Lumsden-Ruegg performs as the Raccoon in the Canada Ballet Jorgen production of The Nutcracker: A Canadian Tradition. Photo supplied

Ballerina Heather Lumsden-Ruegg can empathize with local dancers chosen to perform next week in the Canada’s Ballet Jörgen production of The Nutcracker: A Canadian Tradition.

In 2010, the then 20-year-old student at Toronto’s George Brown College for Dance, was herself a local participant as a tree fairy in the company’s production of Cinderella.

“Being a local participant has given me insight into how overwhelming it might be for kids performing in The Nutcracker with us,” she says. “It reminds me of how important it is to explain things clearly and to be approachable if kids have questions.”

From Newmarket, Ontario, Heather took her first movement class when she was quite young, began Irish Dancing at seven and was 12 before she took her first ballet class. Her passion grew and she graduated from the George Brown Dance program in 2011. She was accepted as an apprentice with the Jörgen Ballet in 2012 and was promoted to company dancer in 2013.

Heather can perform various roles in The Nutcracker, including Grandma, Snowflake and Racoon.

Through the company’s Nutcracker Youth Education Program, local dancers audition for roles as chipmunks and frogs to perform with the professional dancers in performances at the Shenkman Arts Centre or Centerpointe Theatre.

Twenty-seven local dancers, from about 100 who auditioned, have been cast. The sole male and youngest dancer, Viggo Batabyal-Miller, 8, will be one of the 14 local participants in the Shenkman shows and will be dancing as a frog. “Because I was able to bounce super well,” he explains.

Viggo, his mother Helen Batabyal and father Douglas Miller, are thrilled with this opportunity for him to dance in a ballet he first saw performed by the Winnipeg Ballet at the National Arts Centre when he was just three.

He started taking dance lessons shortly afterwards and now takes classes in six dance styles and is a member of the Orléans Academy of Dance Arts award-winning competitive team.

While he also finds time for sports, Viggo finds ballet “peaceful, relaxing and fun,” he says. “It takes all my stress away.”

The family’s commitment to Viggo’s dance is particularly inspiring because two years ago they moved from Orléans to Nepean to be closer to Helen’s parents.

At 35, Helen was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, requiring chemotherapy, radiation and two surgeries over 18 month. Still recovering from her treatments, which ended in November, Helen is unable to drive.

Viggo’s grandmother Monique and his parents make the 90-minute trek to his dance classes – in rush hour traffic – after school four times a week. There are also trips for competitions, the dance school’s Christmas recital and Nutcracker rehearsals.

Mom is always there, not willing to miss any part of Viggo’s remarkable journey with dance. She attributes much of her positive attitude to continuing to be actively involved with her son’s dance and other activities.

“And it keeps the normalcy for him too. Like nothing has changed,” she says.

Canada’s Ballet Jörgen will perform at the Shenkman Arts Centre on Dec.13 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 14 at 1:30 and 7 p.m. Visit www.shenkmanarts.ca for tickets.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)


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