A live performance of The Nutcracker is always a highlight of the festive season. For many local families, though, there’s something even better. They experience the thrill of witnessing their own youngsters or children they know up on stage and performing in the famous Christmas ballet. This made-in-Ottawa magic happens courtesy of the Linda Jamieson School of Dance (LJSD).
Once again this year the Kanata-based dance school is presenting The Nutcracker at Algonquin Commons Theatre. Performances will take place Friday, December 9, through Sunday, December 11, with both matinee and evening shows.
It has been an annual tradition for 21 years. Bright costumes, striking sets, a beloved yuletide fairytale and a cast of young, local performers make it an extra special holiday event. And year in year out, dancers, parents, relatives, neighbours and friends look forward to the classic production.
Certainly Linda Jamieson is counting the days. As the alchemist behind this holiday magic, the renowned dance teacher and internationally recognized choreographer delights in helping her students prepare for curtain time.
After all, it’s an opportunity for the Ottawa youth to shine. And Linda is all about helping kids reach their potential. As a secondary school teacher for 40 years, she taught generations of teens before retiring in 2012. As head of LJSD, she continues to teach, mentor, inspire and share her passion for dance. Thousands of young people have gone through the school’s programs, at least a thousand have gone on to dance-related careers, and a few have even made themselves at home in Linda’s basement. That’s right: when aspiring dancers have needed to stay in Ottawa to access dance instruction, she has gotten out the sheets and opened the door to her home.
She’s feisty that way. Focused on what’s best for kids. And since she was a little girl, she has always loved dance. She began at age five and won 12 dance championships by age 17, including top honours in Canada, the U.S., Scotland and England before winning gold at the world championships.
As a dance teacher, she has earned certification from the Royal Academy of Dance in London, completed the teacher’s course at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and done 12 years of training with Broadway choreographers.
As an educator, her credentials are just as impressive. Linda has earned two university degrees and completed graduate-level courses in educational psychology and physical education. After moving to Ottawa as a newlywed, she taught phys-ed and English at Confederation High School from 1972 to 1979. Back then in phys-ed class she recalls, “The kids would say, ‘I hate badminton. I’m sick of volleyball.’ ”
“What if I start a dance class?” she asked them. What if kids could learn dance—ballet, tap, jazz and more—instead of the standard phys-ed sports? That’s why she wrote curriculum guidelines each year for two decades until the Ontario Ministry of Education finally recognized dance as a subject in schools.
After moving to Earl of March Secondary School in Kanata, she choreographed 32 musicals for students there. And when those kids were having trouble learning their dance steps, she started a dance club. Soon, students wanted more time on the dance floor than the school gym could accommodate. “We’ll help pay the rent,” families said, urging her to find another place to teach dance. So she did. After stints at different venues, Linda Jamieson School of Dance was established at 150 Katimavik Road in the Kanata Town Centre.
“This was not a business plan. This was just an effort to help kids get better at what they love to do,” she explains. “I’m interested in kids’ welfare and well-being and education. The potential in everyone is profound. My job as an educator is to help them find it and achieve it.”
Achieve it they have. Graduates have gone on to dance with the Royal Ballet Company in England, the National Ballet of Canada and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, as well as in Broadway productions, professional stage shows and on cruise ships.
But it’s not just the accomplishments that matter to Linda Jamieson. “One of my main focuses is being respectful and kind,” she notes. Acknowledging the dance world—and life—can sometimes be fiercely competitive, she has high praise for LJSD’s students. “They’re polite. They’re respectful. They support each other.” Via the dance school, they develop self-confidence, teamwork skills, a work ethic, a healthy sense of individuality and other abilities that will serve them well in the future. Right now, though, they’re knee-deep in rehearsals and waiting eagerly for the curtain to rise on The Nutcracker. For details and tickets, see www.jamiesondance.com and www.algonquinsa.com.