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Feathered fable crowns dance triumphs: Waldorf Ballet wraps season

Dance winds up with Waldorf Ballet’s Bird’s Tale
A cast of nearly 100 dancers portrayed an avian parable in Waldorf Ballet’s A BIrd’s Tale.

Performances of Waldorf Ballet’s ethereal A Bird’s Tale provided a storybook ending to a month of dance productions on the Sunshine Coast. Three stagings of the full-length spectacular at the Raven’s Cry Theatre concluded with a standing ovation on June 15. 

The ballet was first performed in 2017, one year after the Sechelt-based Waldorf studio opened its doors, and reprised in 2019. The story blends a combination of characters and music from classic historical ballets Diana and Acteon, Firebird, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Sylvia accompanied by music by French, German, Italian and Russian composers. Dance was choreographed by studio artistic director Johanna Waldorf and classical ballet instructor Grace Gamboa. 

“I have adapted the story and characters each year it was performed in order to highlight the strengths and challenge the dancers I had in the school at the time,” said Waldorf. “This year, for example, I re-choreographed quite a bit again for the more advanced dancers. It was fun working with the group of 11 of them, all now ready to be performing to such a high technical standard on pointe. Some of these same dancers performed in our original 2017 production so they have really grown up and come a long way.” 

Sumptuous costume and set design by Elizabeth Waldorf (a sylvan grove, luxuriantly appointed with trunks and vines) was accentuated by a newly acquired scenic backdrop hand-painted by artist Carlos Sanchez. A corps of fireflies and elves (represented by the studio’s pre-ballet pupils) were adorned with electric lights in their wings.  

The eponymous nightingale (portrayed variously by Anna Kotai, Acesea Enga and Gracelyn Mailey) fluttered into the enchanted realm of a Fairy Queen (Lyla Wilson, Adele Dubin and Morgan Richmond). Aided by her warrior nymphs, the huntress Diana (Lyla Wilson, Adele Dubin and Morgan Richmond) imprisoned the sparkling bird in a gilded cage. During Saturday’s performance, Kotai’s wistful expression from behind bars accentuated the metaphor of stifled imagination. 

As with Waldorf’s 2022 Alice in Wonderland, a subtle environmental message was woven into the storyline. When the Fairy Queen relinquishes her magic flute to satisfy Diana’s appetite for music, the bird is released; the forest that was magicked into quiescence awakes in a woodland jubilee. 

Studio alumna Natalie Martin returned from Miami City Ballet School to coach dancers as Waldorf accompanied performers to the Performing Arts BC provincial festival in Fort St. John. Martin has earned a full scholarship to Pacific Northwest Ballet for summer training this July, and also received the Arabella and Robert Award for Dance from Dance Victoria. 

Meanwhile, Waldorf’s professional program soloists are poised to take advantage of numerous international opportunities. Waverlee Meisinger will train with the San Francisco Ballet School intensive; this spring she received the Most Promising Performer award at the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Performing Arts. Lyla Wilson travels to Philadelphia to attend The Rock School summer intensive; Adele Dubin and Anna Kotai will both attend the Boston Ballet School (Kotai also earned a summer scholarship to Vancouver’s Pacific Dance Arts). 

Brooklyn Turner plans to take advantage of a scholarship to Ellison Ballet in New York City for summer and variation intensives, while Audrey Altenburg will fly to Tampa for summer training at the Straz Centre with Next Generation Ballet. 

Isabella Watts earned a summer scholarship to Pacific Dance Arts and Junior Ballet while Gracelyn Mailey received the Lois Smith award for Excellence in Ballet from the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Performing Arts — and also plans to attend Pacific Dance Arts this summer. 

Meanwhile, in Gibsons, the Gibsons Dance Centre delivered five renditions of its senior recital, a two-hour revue titled Colours. “The dedication of our senior youth company is really put to the test with such demanding performances at the end of a busy competitive and festival season,” said artistic director Zoe Barbaro. “But the smiles are genuine. We’re all grateful to be part of such a thriving and supportive dance community.”