Cowichan dancers get chance to soar with Swan Lake

Big-time ballet could be experienced by local dancers landing parts in Ballet Jörgen Canada’s Jan. 27 production of Swan Lake at the Cowichan Theatre.

Toeing the waters of Cowichan’s dance pool occurred at recent master classes led by ballerina Cristina Graziano at Carlson’s and Steps Ahead dance schools.

Those 1 1/2-hour sessions served valley pupils a taste of the professional dance world, as they consider auditioning for a dozen minor roles in the Toronto troupe’s Swan Lake.

Count Amberlee Allen in.

“I’ll be auditioning in January for Swan Lake,” said the Frances Kelsey secondary and Steps Ahead student, who’s been dancing since age.

“It was a really good workshop and she was a really good teacher. She spent time working on stage presence, and what a company would rather see in auditions,” said Allen, 17.

“She showed us how to bring out your personality, and how you have to be willing to perform for anyone in front of you.”

Graziano’s stories about pro-dancing clarified Allen’s curiosity.

“You put in countless hours in the studio, and don’t really have a social life. You have to love it to be part of it.”

Kelsey’s Delaney Marat, 14, also gave two toes up to Graziano’s class at Steps Ahead.

“She taught us lots of new techniques to try,” sad Marat, who’s studied dance since age three.

“It was cool to see how other people teach ballet.

“It was interesting to see what their day goes like and how they work. It seems like a lot of work, but really fun if you love dance. I’m pretty sure I’ll audition.”

Lorraine Blake, a Steps Ahead instructor, was happy about her pupils’ work with Graziano, and their questions spanning pay to annual pointe-shoe use.

“On the island we’re somewhat cut off.

“But any time students can be involved with, or have light shed on, a professional’s experience is obviously invaluable,” Blake said of the global artist who began dancing at age seven, grabbed a nod for Canadian Dancer of Year, and trained in Russia and elsewhere.

Blake said she jumped at a class offer from Kirsten Schrader, regional arts-and-culture manager, and Cowichan Theatre boss.

“I had to push for (classes) because Ballet Jörgen wasn’t planning to do this,” Schrader said of the company’s local Swan Lake debut and island exclusive.

“I hope this is the beginning of a wonderful relationship with Ballet Jörgen and their community outreach.

Swan Lake try-outs are also open to students recommended by their dance teachers, but closed to kids without ballet training, she noted.

Dancers interested in Swan Lake auditions Jan. 26 must register on line with Ballet Jörgen.

Call 416-961-4725, or email

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