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Ballet stars wowed by rocker Sir Elton Print-ready version

by Michelle Butterfield
Calgary Herald
September 15, 2008

When Nicole Caron and Kelley McKinlay's boss called them off stage during a recent Nutcracker rehearsal, they thought they were in big trouble.

"He pointed at us, waved us over, and he didn't have the greatest look on his face," said McKinlay.

"I immediately thought, 'What did we do?' "

But Jean Grand-Maitre, artistic director with Alberta Ballet, had great news for his young dancers -- they were going to have the chance to meet Sir Elton John.

That's how Grand-Maitre, along with several principal dancers from Alberta Ballet, found themselves in the rock 'n' roll royalty's dressing room Friday night, kicking off an evening they will not soon forget.

"It was probably the best night of my life," said Caron, still overwhelmed by the experience, not quite believing she made small talk with one of the world's most recognized musical personalities.

According to Grand-Maitre, John's agent contacted Alberta Ballet last Thursday with the offer of a lifetime.

Having heard about the company's collaboration with Joni Mitchell to create and perform last year's The Fiddle And The Drum, which featured her music and design, John's curiosity was piqued.

He requested that a DVD copy of the performance be dropped off at his hotel, and extended an offer of backstage access and premium tickets to the dancers.

"I was very surprised and quite excited," said Grand-Maitre. "That such a busy artist would take time to meet local artists shows the nature of the person he is."

Grand-Maitre worked extensively with Mitchell to develop last year's performance and said she spoke of her friendship with John.

"She told me herself Elton had a lot of respect for her songwriting," he said.

Grand-Maitre, Caron and McKinlay all recognize the significance of having artists like John and Mitchell interested in their work, and all three would love to work with John in the future.

"My dream would be after watching the ballet he might want to do a collaboration with us," said Grand-Maitre.

"He wanted to know so much about the ballet, so that is really positive and exciting," said McKinlay.

While in John's dressing room, McKinlay marvelled at the extensive wardrobe, which included "at least 50 pairs of shoes," he said.

His dressing room walls were covered in dark, rich fabrics, red table lights cast a glow in the room and John's two cocker spaniels greeted guests by jumping up and down.

For Caron, the highlights of the night included John's dedication of the song Tiny Dancer to his guests and getting a drumstick signed by the knight himself.

"Our cheeks were so sore. I couldn't stop smiling," Caron said.

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Added to Library on September 15, 2008. (604)


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