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The first production of the current National Ballet of Canada season was a mixed program of three works, presented together as Made in Canada. But know this: Nothing at all is being made by the internationally acclaimed ballet company without Sophie Letendre doing her thing.
She's the company's manager of artistic scheduling – which is to say she oversees the detailed organizing involved with the rehearsing of the company's 68 dancers across five studios at the company's waterfront headquarters at the Walter Carsen Centre in Toronto.
While rehearsing the mixed program (which ran Feb. 28 to March 4), preparations were also under way for a larger production, the full-length classical piece Sleeping Beauty. And if the star of that story gets deluxe nap time, Letendre gets little beauty rest herself.
"We're ramping up for the season," Letendre told The Globe and Mail late last month. "Today has been a particularly crazy day. But it's an exciting time."
The craziness and excitement has to do with the first dress rehearsal for the mixed program. Letendre is the à terre traffic controller, dealing with dancers who are rehearsing for multiple roles in multiple ballets simultaneously. It's a high-stress job that few people aspire to fill, given its scheduling and personnel responsibilities.
"You get complaints and you get conflicting requests," acknowledges Letendre, who retired from the the company as a dancer in 2006 before moving into the scheduling maestro's position a year later. "It's highly complicated, but I have an organized mind and I saw the job as a challenge."
The chief worry of Letendre is the double booking of a dancer's rehearsal time. Complicating the scheduling are the meticulous stipulations of the Canadian Actors' Equity Association, a union which sets out rules for its members. As rehearsal lengths and break times are strictly regulated, any logistical snafus can result in overtime pay kicking in. "It can be quite tricky," Letendre says. "Any small mistake can have a huge ripple-down effect on everybody."
An effect on everybody including Letendre herself. Because she misses being onstage, she occasionally takes on small, character roles. In Sleeping Beauty, she'll dance the Queen – as if her job wasn't demanding enough already. Not only does Letendre keep the whole company on its toes, she'll need to be in that top form herself.
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