There is something utterly magical about The Nutcracker. To be transported to a realm of enchantment accompanied by a dashing prince is every little girl’s dream.
And one little St. Albert girl who grew up to live the dream is Alberta Ballet dancer Galien Johnston. The tall, slim dancer just returned to the Calgary-based dance company after a yearlong maternity leave.
Johnston dances the dual role of Snow Czarina and children’s babuschka (governess) in Edmund Stripe’s The Nutcracker playing at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium from Dec 10 to 13.
Trained at the Royal Ballet School in London, Stripe eventually moved to London City Ballet and the West Australian Ballet Company as principal dancer. As a choreographer, he created The Nutcracker by adapting a Russian essence as opposed to the more traditional German storyline.
As the Snow Czarina, Johnston is costumed in a rich flowing white gown with a lush fur collar and long sleeves. Although this dramatic and regal role is eye-catching, it is not particularly demanding.
“He (Stripe) has me doing a lot a bourrĂ©es — tiny movements of the foot. This is perfect when I’ve just got back from maternity leave three weeks ago,” says Johnston.
Looking after baby May, born in January 2009, was an opportunity to let her body rest and heal. Johnston opted to limit exercising and now it’s like “restarting” the body. “I have to find all my muscles. My hip joints have changed and I have to relearn new positions. I just take it one day at a time.”
Stripe’s choreography premiered last season, but in a sense this is a debut, a fresh start for Johnston. In particular, the battle scene between the Rat Czar and the Nutcracker captivates her where an oversize set and props appear to shrink the dancers.
And as a newly minted mother, Johnston has plenty of real life experience herding children as the babuschka during the party scene.
This Nutcracker is the newest choreography in Canada and the most lavish Alberta Ballet has staged. Set pieces boast over 3,000 feet of steel and two walls used in Act II feature 1,000 rosettes and 3,000 jewels glued by hand.
The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra accompanies Alberta Ballet with Piotr Tchaikovsky’s beloved musical score. “It’s a little bit of magic at Christmas. It celebrates childhood and imagination. Come down to the Jube and see the costumes and sets. It’s an awesome tradition that will put you in the mood for Christmas.”
The Nutcracker<br />Alberta Ballet<br />Dec. 10 to 13<br />Jubilee Auditorium<br />Tickets: $27 to $106<br />Call 780-428-6839 or online at www.albertaballet.com