Shar­ing stage with pro­fes­sion­als in­spires young per­form­ers


An­nual show high­lights Bal­let Jör­gen’s spirit of men­tor­ship

It will feel like a dream com­ing true for Molly Tier­nan when she steps on the stage in De­cem­ber at Cen­tre in the Square to per­form in “The Nutcracker: A Cana­dian Tra­di­tion.”

It feels that way ev­ery time she dances in a show be­cause in that space she is sur­rounded by what she loves – bal­let. The art form and the com­mu­nity cre­ated by Canada’s Bal­let Jör­gen have cap­tured the Kitch­ener teenager and she never wants to leave.

This year’s Nutcracker per­for­mances come with a bonus as she has earned a spot with the tour­ing cast. This means the two shows at Cen­tre in the Square will be among up to a dozen around the prov­ince for her.

“Ever since I was young I’ve al­ways dreamed of be­ing a dancer,” says the St. Mary’s High School stu­dent, who will turn 15 in early De­cem­ber. “Bal­let Jör­gen has re­ally made it click in my mind that bal­let is some­thing I want to do for the rest of my life. And I guess com­ing on that stage and be­ing able to dance with the pro­fes­sion­als just makes me smile.”

Tak­ing in a pro­duc­tion of “The Nutcracker” is a Christ­mas­time tra­di­tion for many Cana­di­ans. For fam­i­lies like the Tier­nans it is ex­tra spe­cial be­cause, for the fourth year in a row, Molly is one of the per­form­ers.

When Bal­let Jör­gen stages a show at a theatre such as Cen­tre in the Square, it in­volves lo­cal dancers in the youth roles, work­ing along­side the pro­fes­sional mem­bers of the cast.

It’s an in­valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence for young peo­ple who live and breathe dance to be men­tored by and form re­la­tion­ships with pro­fes­sion­als who un­der­stand bet­ter than any­one the dreams of the young dancers around them.

“Watch­ing the pro­fes­sion­als on stage and know­ing that po­ten­tially one day that could be me is so in­spir­ing for me when­ever I step on stage with them,” Tier­nan says. “It gives me mo­ti­va­tion to be able to get there some­day.”

In par­tic­u­lar, she looks up to Bal­let Jör­gen com­pany dancer Tay­lor Gill.

The first time Tier­nan took no­tice of Gill was in 2014, when Tier­nan was one of the young­sters cast as a Chip­munk.

“She’s just flaw­less and she makes every­thing look so ef­fort­less,” Tier­nan says of Gill. “As a per­son she’s also very in­spir­ing. If you say some­thing to her she’ll have a con­ver­sa­tion with you.”

Gill, 31, knows how much it means to a young dancer to have a pro­fes­sional of­fer ad­vice or stop to talk.

While grow­ing up in Al­berta and Win­nipeg she was one of those young dancers in sim­i­lar pro­duc­tions and those ex­pe­ri­ences are what in­spired her to make it a ca­reer.

“I was in that same sit­u­a­tion when I was about her age and now I’m on the other side of it so I know what it’s like to be her,” says Gill, who is in her ninth sea­son with Bal­let Jör­gen.

Each year since her first turn in “The Nutcracker,” Tier­nan has been given roles with more re­spon­si­bil­ity.

In 2015, she grad­u­ated to play­ing a Squir­rel and then, last year, she was trans­formed into a Dragon­fly.

While some young per­form­ers may re­peat roles from year to year, there are oth­ers like Tier­nan who demon­strate they’ve grown as dancers and can step up to the chal­lenge of a new role, says Clea Ive­son, ed­u­ca­tion man­ager with Bal­let Jör­gen.

Be­ing cast as a Dragon­fly, which in­volves a duet, sig­naled that the team has rec­og­nized Tier­nan’s tal­ent.

“When some­body is mak­ing it through to Dragon­fly their ea­ger­ness and abil­ity to im­prove and con­tinue to grow in dance is clear,” Ive­son says.

And this year Tier­nan takes an­other step up, join­ing the tour­ing cast.

Train­ing al­most 11 hours a week at the Dance Cen­tre in Kitch­ener, where she first

walked through the doors at age three, Tier­nan hasn’t limited her­self to bal­let.

Dur­ing an in­ter­view in the liv­ing room of her fam­ily’s Kitch­ener home, she spoke fondly of other styles of dance. Through her dance school, she has also per­formed at Cen­tre in the Square with the Kitch­en­erWater­loo Sym­phony for the Yule­tide Spec­tac­u­lar and, two years ago, showed off her Ir­ish danc­ing skills dur­ing a show by the Barra MacNeils.

But as the con­ver­sa­tion comes back to her ex­pe­ri­ences with Bal­let Jör­gen, you can hear her pas­sion for bal­let in her voice.

“The Nutcracker” has opened the door to other Bal­let Jör­gen ex­pe­ri­ences. In 2015, she par­tic­i­pated in “Sleep Beauty.” Last year, it was “Swan Lake.” Then, in Septem­ber, when the com­pany staged “Anas­ta­sia” at Dun­field Theatre in Cam­bridge, Tier­nan was in ac­tion again as one of the lo­cal per­form­ers.

The “Anas­ta­sia” pro­duc­tion led to one par­tic­u­larly busy week­end. Af­ter the two “Anas­ta­sia” shows on Satur­day, Tier­nan was up early Sun­day with a smile on her face for “Nutcracker” re­hearsal in Water­loo.

She also spent a week in the sum­mer in Toronto at a Bal­let Jör­gen camp at Ge­orge Brown Col­lege. Bal­let Jör­gen runs the dance pro­gram at the col­lege in a part­ner­ship that al­lows stu­dents to earn a diploma and leave pre­pared for em­ploy­ment in the dance world. It’s a post-sec­ondary pro­gram that is def­i­nitely on Tier­nan’s radar.

First up, though, is this year’s “Nutcracker” tour. Along with her pri­mary role as the Wood­chop, she will also play a Beaver, Deer, Rat and Dragon­fly.

And if she does go on to be one of the pro­fes­sion­als the young­sters look up to, she’s al­ready think­ing like one, of­fer­ing en­cour­age­ment to those toy­ing with the idea of au­di­tion­ing for a Bal­let Jör­gen show but ques­tion­ing their abil­ity.

“It’s al­ways a re­ally pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence,” Tier­nan says. “I def­i­nitely rec­om­mend go­ing for it.”

Molly Tier­nan poses at a re­hearsal in Water­loo for ‘The Nutcracker: A Cana­dian Tra­di­tion.’ The Kitch­ener teen has grad­u­ated from be­ing one of the lo­cal youth per­form­ers to earning a spot as a mem­ber of the tour­ing cast for the pro­duc­tion by Canada’s...

Molly Tier­nan poses with Tay­lor Gill af­ter last year’s ‘Nutcracker’ per­for­mance at Cen­tre in the Square.

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