It may be an ensemble ballet role for South Surrey actor-dancer-singer Lilah Fitzgerald – but it’s a graceful step forward, nonetheless.
As an apprentice company member Fitzgerald, 17, will be seen in Coastal City Ballet’s Whispers of the Soul, a videoed piece that will premiere online on Feb. 22 as part of the Asian Canadian Special Events Association’s LunarFest Vancouver.
Choreographed by Justine Fraser, the ballet tells the story of a young village girl (danced by Gabriela Mores) who dreams of leaving her home for a different life. As she sleeps, she is visited by three colourful butterflies (Anna Beatriz de Ferreira, Barbara Guerreiro and Felicia Wu) who present her with an opportunity to step through a magical portal into an adventure in three different lands.
According to Coastal City Ballet’s media release, the underlying message of the piece is that “family can be found in many different places and the greatest adventure of all is learning how to truly love one another.”
The Vernon-born Fitzgerald is, herself, no stranger to great adventures.
Five years ago, at the tender age of 12, Fitzgerald made headlines by winning a Leo Award for best lead performance by a female in a television movie for My New Best Friend – the same year that she travelled to the Berlin Film Festival for the premiere of Wim Wenders’ feature Everything Will Be Fine, in which she played a stepdaughter role opposite James Franco. Continuing roles in the series Girlfriend’s Guide To Divorce, Date My Dad and Darrow & Darrow have followed.
Acknowledging that ballet has always been her first love in dance, Fitzgerald said she sees the current project as “a great opportunity to watch and learn from people who have been in the industry longer than me.”
“Gabriela Mores is one of my biggest inspirations,” she said. “She has gorgeous technique and carries out everything so perfectly,” she said, adding that she is thrilled to be involved in a collaboration with such distinguished dance talents.
The thing she loves most about Coastal City Ballet, she said, is that it’s a family – where everyone wants everyone else to succeed.
“When I’m dancing in the ensemble, I’m dancing with my friends. And then there’s the cultural piece of it – the dancers in the company are from all over the world. We speak different languages, but we’re all speaking the language of dance.”
She said Fraser has been “brilliant” in transposing what was intended as a stage performance to video, and choreographing the work so that physical distancing is maintained at all times, although dancing with clear masks has been “a learning curve” for the performers.
“For Justine to make this work for us in a COVID environment – and still have it be a beautiful ballet – is amazing.”
Ever since she was old enough to talk, Fitzgerald said, she has considered being a ‘triple threat’ her dream career path.
For all her work in dance of late – including starting with Pacific DanceArts in 2018 and a subsequent stint at the Joffrey Ballet School – she has been working just as hard on her acting career, and going to countless auditions, she noted, while also improving her singing technique with vocal instructor Britt Bailey. That work, and extending her dance expertise into more contemporary styles, all seems to be paying off.
While Fitzgerald can’t discuss any details yet, she is excited about a just-confirmed role in an upcoming musical comedy film project – one that will allow her to showcase all three skills.
“If anything I’m even more determined now than I was when I was younger,” she laughed.
For details on how to view the ballet, visit https://lunarfestvancouver.ca/whispers-of-the-soul/