Bruce Wells’ love affair with Alberta Ballet

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When Bruce Wells saw Alberta Ballet dancers Kelley McKinlay and Mariko Kondo dance the lead roles of Oberon and Titania in a rehearsal for his production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he cried.

“They adopted the roles so well and so quickly, I actually cried. This is the way it was meant to be performed,” he said. “I’ve fallen in love with this Company and I’ve fallen hard.”

Bruce’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream hits the Jubilee stages in Calgary March 13-16 and Edmonton 21-23. He’s been working with the Company dancers and children’s cast for the last several weeks on the choreography. So far, he’s been really moved by how it’s coming together.

He first created this production 35 years ago for the Boston Ballet where he was the resident choreographer, principal dancer, and company teacher, and interim artistic director. He created the production with the idea of reaching audiences who love the Christmas classic, The Nutcracker. It gives young dancers another opportunity to perform with the professional dancers, and audiences a way to celebrate Valentine’s Day and the arrival of spring with a beautiful love story, he said.

“It’s a Shakespeare play, but it’s an easy story to follow,” he said. “I think people who come are surprised at how much they laugh. It’s a comedy, and I hope they come and have a great time.”

His Canadian debut of A Midsummer Night’s Dream has also provided Bruce with the opportunity to come back to a city that he has a major soft spot for. His parents attended high school together in Calgary as teenagers, which is how they met. He only visited Calgary once as a child.

“I think I was 7-years-old and we came to the Stampede,” Bruce said.

Growing up in the US at a time when there were only a handful of prominent ballet companies in existence provided Bruce with opportunities he believes he wouldn’t have today. He began dancing at the age of 9, and by the age of 16 he joined the New York City Ballet under George Balanchine. At 27 he danced with the Connecticut Ballet where he first performed Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. At 29 he joined the Boston Ballet where he took on many roles.

For 17 years, he taught young dancers at the prestigious Pacific Northwest Ballet and has enjoyed watching many of those students grow up and move on to become very successful professional dancers, including Alberta Ballet’s Kuu Sakuragi, Reilley McKinlay, Eli Barnes and Christiana Bennett.

“I’ve been in the dance world for over 50 years,” Bruce said. “I’ve played all of the parts, I’ve choreographed, I’ve taught, and I’ve had many opportunities I’m extremely grateful for.”

And watching Alberta Ballet dancers absorb his production as beautifully and professionally as they have is just another feather in his cap, he said.

 “I’m deeply touched by the reception I’ve had here,” he said. “The Company has taken to this ballet so quickly and developed their characters so well that I’m truly overwhelmed.  I’ve seen it danced so many times and by so many people. It’s like I have a silk screen that I lay over a ballet company and it’s never the same way twice.”

Don’t miss this spectacular springtime production! Tickets are still available to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Visit https://www.albertaballet.com/a-midsummer-nights-dream for details.

Bruce Wells as a dancer with the New York City Ballet

Bruce Wells as a dancer with the New York City Ballet

Kim Jackson