Hillsdale-Based Ballet Company Returns to Live Performance

[Posted November 5, 2021]


The Portland Ballet presents the world premiere of John Clifford’s "A Christmas Carol: The Ballet," November 27-28 at PSU's Lincoln Hall. Tickets are on sale now. To herald their return to live performance after months of pandemic-related restrictions, TPB founders Nancy Davis and Jim Lane commissioned an entirely new work to be debuted this Thanksgiving weekend.


Davis, the company’s artistic director, said in a statement: “We are so happy and excited to be collaborating with our good friend John Clifford again and to be able to bring this timely new production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ to our Portland audiences. All new choreography, an original score and scenic designs combined with the talents of our own dancers and stellar guest artists will make for a sensational performance experience!”


Clifford, choreographer of the new production, is a company artistic advisor, founder and artistic director of the original Los Angeles Ballet, and former principal dancer and choreographer with New York City Ballet. Considered to be George Balanchine’s choreographic protégé, he has just published a memoir, “Balanchine's Apprentice: From Hollywood to New York and Back.”


“For my new ballet, for the holidays, and as an alternative to the endless Nutcrackers, I wanted to do something fresh, but at the same time familiar and easy to understand,” said Clifford.

“In my version I emphasize the love that permeates this story by Charles Dickens, and it is not as dark and scary as the original book or the various filmed and TV versions. We show why Scrooge has turned so sour, so that we actually understand him better and forgive him his flaws."


An original score for the ballet was composed by Karl Moraski and includes some popular Christmas carols. Said Clifford, "I know the public will be all smiles when they hear it.”

The Portland Ballet has been mounting its biggest production of the year on Thanksgiving weekend since 2003. The cast of about 30 dancers will include four guest artists, including three former students: Michael Jurica will play the lead role of Ebenezer Scrooge; Lauren Lane, recently retired from a long professional career at Saint Louis Ballet and now assistant artistic director of The Portland Ballet, will play Mrs. Cratchit; featured dancer Nicholas Le-Jurica returns to the academy as director of community engagement after receiving a BFA from The Juilliard School in New York City and dancing professionally with Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company in Salt Lake City.


The creative team is filled out by Kim Morris, who captures the Victorian flavor in her new scene projections, Michelle Shipton-Cook as costume designer, and James Mapes as lighting designer.


Founded in 2001, The Portland Ballet provides formal training for dancers of any skill level. The comprehensive curriculum begins with Creative Ballet classes (ages 3-6) and progresses through seven levels of Curriculum Ballet (ages 6-19). The program also offer the region’s only men’s ballet program, aimed specifically at developing confidence and ability in young male dancers. Adult students may drop in for intermediate level Open classes or to register for the beginning level adult series.


Artistic director Nancy Davis and executive director Jim Lane trained at the School of American Ballet and achieved successful professional careers in companies throughout the U.S. After retiring as principal dancers of the Los Angeles Ballet – where their partnership onstage led to a marriage and family off the stage – they moved to Portland and founded The Portland Ballet. Graduates have gone on to dance for major professional companies and conservatory programs throughout the U.S. and abroad.


--Valeurie Friedman

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