Local Youngster Keradwyn Thompson Lives Christmas Dream in Ballet Jörgen's The Nutcracker
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When Keradwyn Thompson was asked to play the role of a chipmunk in Ballet Jörgen’s presentation of The Nutcracker this week not only was it a dream come true for the 9-year-old but also a rewarding validation of all her hard work. The youngster has been dancing since before she could even walk!
“Anytime music would come on, the beginning of a TV show or if the radio was on, she would start dancing,” says father Kevin Thompson. “In fact, it was the only time she was ever interested in television at all. It was just the opening or closing music. It’d come on and there she would be dancing around.”
To young Kera, there was never any doubt on what she wanted to be doing with her time. Sure, she has her toys and games but, to her, nothing quite compares to the feeling she gets when she's dancing.
“I feel really happy. I’m very energetic so it gets it all out of me,” she says having a hard time even standing still for her interview.
Her parents will be the first to admit, holding Kera back when she gets in her zone is nearly impossible. She likes to live in the fast lane and overcoming challenges when it comes to dance is just another part of the process. Where other kids might give up at some of the complex choreography, Kera maintains a steady regime of practicing. The challenges are fun. The hard part, she says, is having to slow down.
This production of the beloved Tchaikovsky ballet was created by acclaimed choreographer Bengt Jörgen. Those unfamiliar with the tale are in for a magical treat this holiday season. Debuting in Saint Petersburg in December of 1892, the story of young Clara who dreams of a heroic Nutcracker Prince and the villainous Mouse King has delighted audiences in various forms each Christmas Season.
The Jörgen Ballet will enhance the familiar compositions like “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”, “Russian Dance” and “Waltz of the Flowers” with enormous 30-foot backdrops modeled after 20th Century landscapes. These include replications of Franklin Carmichael’s Church and Houses at Bisset and and L.L. FitzGerald’s Trees and Wildflowers.
For the prestigious ballet, the cast were put through the expected training for a production of this caliber. Young Kera would discover that, despite a small role in the production, as a cast member she would be subjected to similar sessions. It would be the most intensive production she’s danced for in her short career with her Sunday’s being eaten up by hours of lessons.
“The first thing I do is understand how each child learns and how I can make it easier for them to feel confident with the choreography, the music and the acting,” says Ballet Mistress Michelle Brawley on her approach to working with the younger cast members.
Opportunities like this one are often the first time the children will experience working with professional dancers and Brawley says that they are not always aware of how one misstep in timing can impact the entire production. It is her job to ensure the young performers understand their part clearly and she coaches them in maintaining their confidence when things becoming intimidating.
“Just imagine being in the wings, it is dark, the stage looks different from the rehearsal studio, the music starts and they need to remember exactly when to enter the stage,” she says. “At the end of the eight rehearsals we have, they are ready. All we have to do is help them handle the nervousness and the excitement.”
For Keradwyn, it is much more excitement than butterflies in her stomach.
“I’m very excited to be dancing with my friends and just getting this chance with the Jörgen Ballet is a very big opportunity.”
Much like Kera when it comes to the challenges of the ballet, Brawley loves taking on the possible difficulties and finds working with the children very rewarding.
“Each child comes in with their unique personality, way of learning and processing the information. Then the different casts also develop a personality of their own. My role is to understand all that and create ways to make the learning fast, effective and enjoyable. It fascinates me.”
For Keradwyn’s parents, it continues to be a sense of pride each time they get to watch their daughter perform. They take an active role in encouraging her, going through their own practices at home and supporting her through the highs and lows.
“She was the one that wanted to do ballet,” says Kevin Thompson. “We enrolled her when she was three and she’s loved it ever since. She’s never asked not to go. It’s one of the things she’s always wanted to do.”
That sense of happiness and joy she receives from dancing, says Kevin, “is just great to see.”
“I’ve had to really prepare, practice a lot more than my regular dances. I know it’s not just my family and friends that are watching but all those other people are watching,” Kera tells Ottawa Life a week before her big performance.
Does she think she’s ready for her Wednesday night debut?
Without hesitation, she performs her choreography on the spot as though she had been born ready. The energetic youngster, it would seem, will not be restrained to the simple roll of chipmunk for long. You get a sense that in a few more years Kera will be vying for the roll of Clara.
The Jörgen Ballet’s Nutcracker will have six performances divided between the Shenkman Arts Centre and the Centrepointe Theatre between December 14-17. Tickets are on sale now.
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