As the school year draws to a close, most high school students are focused on final exams, proms, and preparations for graduation. Como resident Charlotte Tracy, a trainee dancer with Ballet Co.Laboratory, had a different milestone to celebrate prior to donning a cap and gown – her final performance with the professional Company of Ballet Co.Laboratory.
From May 20-22, 2022, Charlotte danced alongside professional dancers on the E.M. Pearson stage at Concordia University for “Firebird,” with about 90 other students from The School of Ballet Co.Laboratory. Together they told the reimagined story of a magical bird who embraces her unique power to bring protection, beauty, and love to the earth.
Ballet Co.Laboratory, the city’s only professional ballet company and school, gives dancers in their pre-professional program the opportunity to perform in two large-scale productions per season – the organization’s annual holiday production and another reimagined story ballet in the spring.
Ballet Co.Laboratory Artistic Director Zoé Henrot feels strongly about the benefits of students working with professional artists and notes: “It’s not only the students’ performance and education experience that is enriched by this model. Our professional dancers are equally as inspired by the opportunity to share the stage with the next generation of the art form. Together they encourage one another and realize that no matter how many years they have been dancing, the learning and growing never stops.”
For senior Charlotte Tracy, dancing alongside professional dancers has manifested as improvement in her dancing. In Firebird, Charlotte danced in the corps de ballet, a key skill for dancers to master that involves dancing in unison as a group. “When I was younger and would only perform in a recital or Nutcracker, every show felt like a big deal, but also a lot of pressure. Since I have been dancing in multiple professional shows a year, my dancing has improved drastically. Every time I perform, I feel less stage fright and a little more prepared for the stage than last time,” Charlotte reflected.
Now Charlotte’s two younger sisters, Isabelle and Hazel, are following in her footsteps by taking classes at The School of Ballet Co.Laboratory. When upper-level students of the school had the opportunity to work directly with Firebird choreographer Flavia Garcia to learn the steps for their roles, Isabelle Tracy, age 14, was thrilled. “It was fun to get to learn from a guest choreographer because usually, we work with people we already take class from. This experience has helped me adapt to different teaching styles,” she said.
The lower-level students of The School of Ballet Co.Laboratory performed roles in Firebird’s prologue. Choreographed by artistic director Zoé Henrot, the prologue gave the audience more context about the realm in which the Firebird’s story takes place, and how the Firebird’s character has been shaped by her life experiences. During the choreographic process with Henrot, dancers in Beginning Ballet through Level 3 were given opportunities to infuse the choreography with their own ideas about their characters.
Henrot said, “It is important to me that the dancers feel they have ownership over the steps they are dancing. Traditionally students do not engage in this part of the creative process but are expected to at a professional level. I want to ensure they are prepared for this in the future.”
Hazel Tracy, age 6, is the youngest dancer in the Tracy family. Currently in beginning ballet, she was thrilled to perform in Firebird, especially since she got to share the spotlight with her big sisters. All three siblings agree that getting to watch the professionals in rehearsals and up close on stage is inspiring.
Charlotte Tracy considers her front-row seat to the inner workings of a professional ballet company a distinct privilege. “Most kids my age have a lot more free time, but I wouldn’t exchange being a trainee for anything. I feel incredibly prepared going into a college dance program next year because of what I’ve learned at Ballet Co.Laboratory.” Tracy will begin her first year at the University of Missouri – Kansas City’s dance program this fall.
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