A high-flying dance spectacular by the full company of Waldorf Ballet will include a dozen Sunshine Coast performers who have been selected for training at prestigious programs across North America.
Sixteen-year-old Natalie Martin, who is completing a full year of professional training at the Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia, will return to assist with Waldorf’s long-anticipated performance of Aladdin.
The studio, known for lavish, perennial productions of The Nutcracker and Alice in Wonderland, is tackling Aladdin for the first time as its end-of-season performance on June 17 and 18.
“We were preparing it in 2020 — the year that everything shut down at spring break,” said artistic director Johanna Waldorf. “We had it almost ready to go, and then that year nobody was able to have a proper performance.”
Unlike The Nutcracker, the studio didn’t hold auditions for Aladdin, because every member of the company is assigned a role. The youngest dancers are only three years old.
This summer, a trio of the production’s teenage dancers — Taho Shinagawa, Miyo Shinagawa, and Waverlee Meisinger — plan to attend the Alberta Ballet School Summer Program. Eleven-year-olds Audrey Altenburg and Isabella Watts have been accepted to a similar course at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Another three — Lyla Wilson, Morgan Richmond and Annah Kotai — will participate in summer instruction at the Victoria Academy of Ballet once Aladdin concludes.
“It’s so exciting to have entire groups of these intermediate and advanced-level dancers heading off to exciting summers and nice achievements at their festivals,” said Waldorf. “The summer programs in particular are really intensified. You are literally dancing morning, noon and night. It gives these girls a glimpse of a professional lifestyle and a taste for different teachers and techniques.”
Brooklyn Turner, who earlier this week represented the Sunshine Coast at the provincial Festival of Performing Arts BC, plans to attend the Rock School’s summer program in Philadelphia. In April, Gracelyn Mailey was honoured at the Coast Dance Festival with the Intermediate Ballet Solo Award. Adele Dubin was invited to enrol in Canada’s National Ballet School summer instruction.
Before scattering to far-off cities, however, the dancers are gearing up for four full-length performances of the Aladdin ballet.
“Ballet began with the idea of storytelling,” said Waldorf. “It became such an important piece of the culture because it was a way to communicate. Classical ballet especially has these big fairytale stories, so you’re entertained from start to finish, and when people’s kids pop up, it becomes an extra-special moment for them.”
Waldorf’s Aladdin was originally created by American composer Carl Davis; it premiered in 2000, danced by the Scottish Ballet company. The story hews closely to the tale spun by female storyteller Scheherazade in the ancient collection of Arabic folk tales known as One Thousand and One Nights. The score blends Chinese and Indian musical styles since the original Persian epic was set in China with an interlude in Morocco.
The studio’s enrollment — and the upcoming show’s cast — has almost surpassed 100 dancers. “We may never be enormous in size,” said Waldorf, “but I think the key to our success is that we’re really trying to give the students individual mentorship to help them find their path and their success.”
Aladdin plays at the Raven’s Cry Theatre in Sechelt in matinee and evening performances on June 17 and 18. Details and ticket details are available at waldorfballet.com.