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Local dancers start learning choreography for ‘Sleeping Beauty’

From left; dancers Erin Porter, Lauren Theurer and Emily Baker rehearse a dance from Sleeping Beauty recently at the ND Ballet Company in Grand Forks. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 3
Chalnessa Eames, a former dancer with the Winnipeg Ballet Co., works with Lauren Theurer of the pre-professional company of the ND Ballet Co. on point variations of Sleeping Beauty. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 3
Emily Grizzell, a guest artist and former Winnipeg Ballet member, works with apprentice dancers Meghan Hartje, center, and Ashlyn Dilley at the ND Ballet Company recently. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald3 / 3

The North Dakota Ballet Company got some special help this week.

Former Royal Winnipeg Ballet dancers Emily Grizzell and Chalnessa Eames joined the Grand Forks-based company this week for a ballet intensive. The four-day prep allowed around 40 dancers at the Ballet Company to train with high-class dancers for the company’s Feb. 7 performance of “Sleeping Beauty” at the Chester Fritz Auditorium.

This is Grizzell’s third year helping area dancers. Last year, she helped the company put on “The Nutcracker.”

“It was great for somebody in the Grand Forks community to get that kind of expertise,” said Laura Dvorak, the executive director of the North Dakota Ballet Company. “The year before, she’s dancing for the Queen of England, and the next year, she’s dancing here and inspiring our ballerinas. It’s been a really great relationship.”

Grizzell and Eames both danced professionally for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, one of the world’s premier ballet companies, and the longest continuously operating ballet company in North America.

This week, Grizzell and Eames both taught around 40 dancers different ballet techniques and variations, and the intensive included master ballet classes. The dancers and teachers ran through the choreography of “Sleeping Beauty,” which the company will put on a full production of in February. The original choreography was produced by Grizzell.

“It’s fun to do something like this,” Grizzell said. “At first, I was a little hesitant to teach some of the younger dancers, but I think this has been a good experience for both me and them.”

Dvorak and Grizzell’s relationship started around three years ago, when Dvorak attempted to get some dancers from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to come down for a few lessons. Grizzell, who would soon retire from professional dancing, took the offer.

A few lessons turned into a few times a month, and before she knew it, Grizzell was choreographing the North Dakota Ballet Company’s shows.

“It’s been really rewarding to inspire young dancers,” Grizzell said.

She said when she started as a teacher, she struggled to adapt to teaching a wide range of ability and ages. Coming from one of the world’s most recognizable ballet companies to teaching up-and-coming dancers was a bit of a transition for her.

Now, Grizzell said she feels fully immersed. She now lives in Spokane, Wash., and makes a couple trips a year to Grand Forks to help out the North Dakota Ballet Company.

“It brings our level of a school and out level of performance to a whole other level where we probably never would have been without them,” Dvorak said. “In North Dakota, we don’t have that access that you would in Minneapolis or other really big cities. So for our dancers to have that opportunity to train with someone who has danced the whole world is incredible.”

 Because of the North Dakota Ballet Company’s wide range of age and talent in the productions, Dvorak and other organizers had to find a performance they felt fit their cast. They settled on the third act of “Sleeping Beauty” because the show is not highly ballet-focused and has fun characters that most people know and recognize, including Little Red Riding Hood and Puss in Boots. 

“We wanted to find a show that really worked for all ages,” Dvorak said. “When we do the full show in February, we’ll have people ranging in ages from probably 3 to 60. And ‘Sleeping Beauty’ really appeals to so many ages.”

The choreography for “Sleeping Beauty” was put together by Grizzell with her own twist to the classic fairy tale.

“There are so many creative ways that you can bring the more traditional focus into dance,” Grizzell said. “It’s really been a great experience for me.”

Call Rupard at (701) 780-1122; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1122; or send email to

Wade Rupard

Wade Rupard is a reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. Rupard is a 2014 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and is originally from Normal, Ill. 

(701) 780-1122