There are few holiday traditions as loved – or as magical – as The Nutcracker. From the music to the costumes, the stage design to the choreography, it’s as much a part of the season as twinkling trees and hot cocoa.
And there’s perhaps no place this is more true than right here in New Westminster.
For more than 30 years, the Royal City Youth Ballet Company has been putting on an annual run of The Nutcracker, as part of their unique approach to dance training. The organization was created to bridge the gap between a ballet school and professional ballet company.
“We give the dancers a taste of what it might be like to be a professional dancer in a non-competitive dance environment,” explained artistic director Camilla Fishwick- Kellogg. “They learn how everything works backstage as well as on stage, they learn teamwork and responsibility, and they receive technical training that helps improve their technique and gain strength from the hours of rehearsals.”
The non-profit dance company is so well regarded that spots are highly sought after by young dancers from around the region during annual auditions each September.
“We love that it is open to students at any metro Vancouver studio as it’s about sharing the love of dance,” she said. “We have so many wonderful parts for all ages and ballet levels.”
She notes that the production tours to other theatres during the season, including a trip to Vancouver Island, and that the entire experience not only gives them a glimpse into a professional dancer’s life but leaves them with memories and experiences that last a lifetime.
“We expect a lot out of our dancers, even the young ones, and they always find a way together to rise up to a very high level. We know we have succeeded when we have provided the right environment, support, coaching and challenges to allow them to flourish.”
This dedication to excellence has been a cornerstone of the Royal City Youth Ballet since it first opened its doors 31 years ago when it was founded by Dolores Kirkwood, who served as the first artistic director, and Donna Fishwick, the first and still-current president of the organization. “We started with very modest beginnings in a basement studio in New Westminster as a new ballet company focused on young dancers,” said Fishwick-Kellogg. “And that vision has flourished and is still going strong. Many of our alumni return with their own children as new dancers and lend a hand with teaching and backstage support.”
She notes that the organization has been blessed with fantastic leadership over the years.
“The company would not have survived without the hard work of our board of directors. Their job takes endless hours and it’s all for the dancers.”
With New Westminster and the Massey Theatre as a home base for so long, the Royal City Youth Ballet has truly become a hometown favourite – and the organization is proud to be a part of this community.
“It would be difficult to even imagine being anywhere else,” said Fishwick-Kellogg. “We appreciate being part of the Arts Council of New West and the work being done there to elevate the overall involvement and profile of the arts in this city. This is a vibrant place with a continuously evolving demographic and we cannot wait to see what the future holds.”
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