By Yose Cormier
When the curtain rose for The Nutcracker: A Canadian Tradition at Shenkman Arts Centre in December, among the little critters running around the stage will be Hintonburg’s Maisie Burchett.
Maisie, 10, was one of the four chipmunks in the Ballet Jörgen production, which reimagines the classic Tchaikovsky tale in a Canadian setting, full of snowflakes, lumberjacks, Mounties, and creatures of the woods.
Maisie was picked as one of the 25 Ottawa youths who took part in the performances. The children were split between two venues, with three shows at Shenkman Theatre on December 11 and 12 and two afternoon performances at Meridian Centrepointe Theatre on December 14. In this year’s show, which is touring across Ontario, the Nutcracker Prince is played by Toby Finney, an Ottawa local.
This is Maisie’s second year performing in The Nutcracker.
“I did it last year and it was lots of fun. I was a frog then, but playing the chipmunk is more fun. There’s more running around,” she says.
Maisie and the other chipmunks were on stage at one point for about 2-3 minutes, performing some pliés and jumps, running around and eating pretend nuts.
“We come on stage hiding underneath a dress, peaking out. We have to crouch down and scurry along until we get to the middle of the stage. Then we dance,” she says.
Maisie has been dancing since she was three now, and is enrolled at the Greta Leeming Studio of Dance, where she takes six classes a week (over four days).
“I do four ballet classes and two jazz classes. I like jazz better because it’s more fun, faster and you get to do more moves than ballet,” she admits.
Her mom, Cara Vandale, is very supportive of her daughter.
“It makes me really proud to see Maisie dancing on the stage with professionals. She lights up with happiness when she’s dancing and it’s so amazing to see her fully immersing herself in this learning experience with Ballet Jörgen,” she says.
As for nerves, Maisie doesn’t think she’ll be too nervous performing in front of the crowds this year. That’s partially because she did it last year but also because she’s not the one having to perform the pas de deux, throw someone in the air and then catch her!
She told her mother last year that person should be more nervous than her, and if he wasn’t, then she shouldn’t be either.
Maisie hopes she might get to perform again next year, but in the meantime, she might diversify her athletic endeavours this summer. She plays a lot of sports at school, including soccer, volleyball and bordenball, and is hoping to play on a summer team next year.
Until then, she’ll continue with dancing.
“It’s fun, and I kinda feel happier when I’m dancing.”