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Ballet Jörgen's high-spirited Anne of Green Gables at Arden

The red-haired, freckle-faced Anne Shirley of Avonlea comes to town on March 5.
Hannah Mae Cruddas dances the principal role of Anne in Ballet Jorgen's Anne of Green Gables - The Ballet taking prlace at the Arden Theatre on Tuesday, March 5. LINDA SCHETTLE

Anne of Green Gables – The Musical was always the focal point of Charlottetown Festival. It held the Guinness World Record as the longest-running annual musical from 1965 to 2020 when it was cancelled due to COVID. 

Despite its longevity running 2,500 performances internationally as well as at home, Anne of Green Gables had never been adapted into a ballet until Ballet Jörgen conceived the idea. 

Anne of Green Gables – The Ballet, a whimsical and high-spirited production, makes its Arden Theatre debut on Tuesday, March 5. 

The classical ballet company was formed in 1987 to support the development and choreography of Canadian artists. During its history, the troupe reimagined all the big ballets of the classical repertoire — Cinderella, Coppelia, Romeo & Juliet, Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake. 

“We only dance original works. Everything we do keeps us honest,” said artistic director Bengt Jörgen.  

The company’s main mission was to make ballet accessible and relevant to 21st century audiences by telling Canadian stories. By 2006, the company was not just choreographing traditional ballets with Canadian choreographers.  

It was actively seeking Canadian stories that explored the challenges we face. And the quintessential Canadian story every child reads in school is novelist Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables

“It was a long journey. The longest period was clearing all the rights. A lot of people created things and there were a lot of trademarks around the story,” said Jörgen. 

As an example, he mentioned Montgomery’s heirs had signed an agreement with the Charlottetown Festival. It stated that while the musical ran, the heirs were not authorized to give the rights to anyone else. 

“In the end, the solution was to use the music from the the musical and incorporate it into our score. The result is a beautiful, symphonic score orchestrated by Alexander Levkovich,” Jörgen said. The score is prerecorded by the Ukrainian National Symphony, a 20-piece orchestra. 

Although the story is well-known, building the two-act production's 26 scenes had its challenges. 

“Older styles of ballet developed it as an aesthetic. We don’t think about that. We use ballet to tell a story. This production lives in the world of music, but it hugs closer to the musical. We only have two hours to deliver the story and our challenge was to figure out the intent of the core elements and what dance can highlight.”  

It starts with Anne meeting Matthew at the train station and the friction between the young girl and Marilla. The audience watches teenage Anne flirt with Gilbert and finally Matthew’s death. 

“There’s a strong mother-daughter relationship between Anne and Marilla, two strong-willed, stubborn and good-hearted women. Then there’s the relationship with Matthew as a father figure, and when he dies, she must grow up. She decides to stay at Green Gables and take care of Marilla. She pays back everything she got. It’s the circle of life.”  

The company, currently on a 21-stop tour of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, has developed a flexible set design that fits small to large stages. 

“Cost was a major challenge. We have to shift so fast for the most part that dancers move the set pieces, or they become part of the set.” 

Anne of Green Gables – The Ballet starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $57.75 and are available at or at 780-459-1542. 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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