Dance just as well as you absolutely can to win the job — and when you’re on stage before a huge audience, try not to dance so well.

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This article was published 20/9/2015 (2093 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Dance just as well as you absolutely can to win the job — and when you’re on stage before a huge audience, try not to dance so well. 

Quite the task facing 10- to 12-year-old girls trying out Sunday for plum potentially career-launching roles as tap and ballet dancers in next year’s Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre production of Billy Elliot.

Two lads from Ontario will take turns playing Billy, the boy from a depressed northern England mining town whose dream is to be a ballet dancer. Jennifer Lyon will play the major role of Mrs. Wilkinson, Billy's dance teacher, in all 32 performances.

Sunday, girls from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s recreation program auditioned to win 14 spots as dancers at the ballet school Billy secretly attends.

This is the first time the theatre and ballet have formed this type of partnership, RMTC artistic director Steven Schipper said: "That’s why it’s so special," he said.

Schipper said he deliberately opted for younger girls in the RWB’s recreation program, rather than those enrolled full time and taking their academic classes at the University of Winnipeg Collegiate.

The girls dancing in Billy’s fictional ballet school are just starting out.

"We deliberately went to the recreation group — that’s in keeping with who the young people in the (fictional) ballet are," Schipper said. "The key is, the ones who are really good will have to learn to dance less well."

He laughed that come January, the most proficient dancers will have to appear to be less skilled than they really are. They’ll also sing, and there will be small speaking parts.

"They’ll also play people in the town" in crowd scenes, he said.

Schipper will make the final decision today on who will be on stage early next year, with input from theatre choreographer Tracey Flye and music director Joseph Tritt, who both oversaw Sunday’s auditions.

The Royal MTC spent Sunday auditioning members of the RWB School's Recreational Division to fill the roles of the Ballet Girls Ensemble for their upcoming production of Billy Elliot the Musical.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Royal MTC spent Sunday auditioning members of the RWB School's Recreational Division to fill the roles of the Ballet Girls Ensemble for their upcoming production of Billy Elliot the Musical.

There will be seven girls in each performance, taking turns throughout the four-week, 32-performance schedule.

All the girls auditioning Sunday had extensive resumes, some having spent half their young lives already in tap dancing, ballet, singing, and theatre programs and lessons.

"I spend five days a week here. I take 11 classes a week" at the RWB in recreation-level programs, said 11-year-old Elizabeth White from East Kildonan. "They told me, and I immediately watched the movie."

Sadie Paquette, an exuberant 10-year-old from East St. Paul, said she’s already been on stage at the concert hall with the RWB in Romeo and Juliet, and Elizabeth and their classmate Lynea Turner appeared in The Princess and the Goblin. It’s not all that scary, she said, because the performers cannot see the audience sitting beyond the stage lights.

"I like the acting aspect of it, just projecting it in the face" in ballet, said Sadie.

Lynea, an 11-year-old from East Kildonan, loves ballet and tap, though, she confided, "It’s always made my feet sore."

Schipper said the girls will be paid "generously," though he would not elaborate.

Some of the girls auditioning only came up to other girls’ shoulders.

Because the play depicts a real ballet school in a small community, said Schipper, "We’re looking for all shapes and sizes. No one is going to be disqualified for being the wrong size." 

Schipper pointed out that the story of Billy Elliot is "about making one’s dream comes true."

In the story, there is a divisive miners’ strike going on, and not everyone is initially supportive of a young boy’s going into ballet.

"It takes the entire community to come together" for Billy to succeed, said Schipper: "That’s very Winnipeg."

 

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca