Community Outreach, Features & Spotlights

What is it Like to Work at Ballet Jörgen? Variety, Acceptance & Being Funny is a Must

December 1, 2021

Working at Ballet Jörgen
Angela in action in the Ballet Jörgen office!

“If there’s anything I’ve learned from my time here, it’s that effective collaboration is the key
to keeping a company internally strong.”

“No other company does as much as us… certainly not with less money than us!” laughed Artistic Director Bengt Jörgen as he led our first full staff meeting prior to the Company’s Nutcracker tour.  

Throughout the past eleven weeks as Administrative Assistant for Ballet Jörgen, I have witnessed firsthand the nature of the CBJ home office — chaotic, welcoming, and abounding with political debates. 

A dance graduate myself, I knew experience at Ballet Jörgen would give me great insight into the operations of a professional company.

I started working here with typical administrative duties, in particular donor and constituent management using Raiser’s Edge. Then I took on development research tasks and financial logging. In a mentorship style, I was asked what else I wished to do with my time, so I took the opportunity to learn more about the Education, Marketing, and Production departments. I even went into the studios to take some rehearsal photos of the dancers!

For a small office, it’s amazing to see the amount of people needed to fully operate Canada’s largest touring dance company.

When asked for three words that describe my experience here, I gave, “variety,” “acceptance,” and just pure “funny.”

Angela Xu working at Ballet Jörgen, summer student position
Angela posing during her training at York University. Photo by Tian Qiu.

“…no matter how many fresh faces show up at the office, they are embraced into the Ballet Jörgen family
with a speed and deftness I have rarely seen at any other organization.”

Variety

The nature of Ballet Jörgen’s touring company necessitates many seasonal hires, including Stage Manager, Technical Director, Wardrobe Supervisor, and many more. The Company itself welcomes multiple Junior Company, Apprentice, and Mentorship dancers along with new professional members each year.

Yet no matter how many fresh faces show up at the office, they are embraced into the Ballet Jörgen family with a speed and deftness I have rarely seen at any other organization.

Ballet Jörgen also heads many community events and workshops across Ontario, with an emphasis on helping the underprivileged, discriminated youth, and distant areas experience the magic of dance — many of them for the first time. The Ballet 101 and Boys Who Dance programs are two I greatly admire and have personally seen the positive effects of in my work. 

As I familiarized myself with these various programs, I realized just how much the Company attempts to do for its community in kind. We are not Canada’s most well-funded non-profit. We depend largely on grants and donations, all of which require a huge amount of time and energy preparing applications and initiating relationships with donors. The COVID-19 pandemic was another curveball that the Company had to adapt to. Despite these difficulties, however, Ballet Jörgen remains valiant in its intent and mission to bring dance to everyone accessibly.  

Dance for all — as our tagline says.

in studio Nutcracker rehearsals working at Ballet Jörgen
In the Studio L to R: The Nutcracker Rehearsals with Leanardo Prado, Hannah Mae Cruddas, Akari Fujiwara & Adrián Ramírez Juárez. Photos by Angea Xu. 

“Living and working as a classified ethnic minority and person of colour in Canada,
I’ve experienced many microaggressions and traumas in the workplace. The feeling of safety and
inclusion in the office is a surprising and welcome one.”

Acceptance

It is with good humour that I say our Artistic Director is notorious in the office for talking nonstop about the Company’s values to anyone who will listen. In truth, it’s really his passion for the Company and its dancers. When I see the Company as it currently is, I realize how so many of these values are being put into practice. For example, Ballet Jörgen rebels against the ingrained idea that ballet is only beautiful if one has a certain body type. The current Company is a variety of different body types, heights, and ethnicities. Talking with the dancers and learning about them has been one of the highlights of my time here.

Compared to some of my previous work experiences, I feel Ballet Jörgen has been heading diversity amongst its dancers for a long time and for truly the right reasons. Living and working as a classified ethnic minority and person of colour in Canada, I’ve experienced many microaggressions and traumas in the workplace. The feeling of safety and inclusion in the office is a surprising and welcome one.

With the Company’s diversity comes its challenges, as well. Should we play the Canadian anthem? How should we give a land acknowledgment? I have found that as staff, our opinions do matter in the decision-making. Almost hilariously, I have been prodded to give my opinion on sensitive topics because the Company did not want to make a major decision without hearing everyone out.

It is these such examples that perpetuate the “acceptance” I mention. There is room to give your thoughts and feelings. Most importantly, there is room to make mistakes and grow. Perhaps within a smaller organization, it is easier to hear everyone out. Perhaps the office just has a good chemistry. Of course, there are still conflicts present in any office environment, but I know my voice will be taken seriously here.

“Just remember to bring a ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ and joke of the day.”

Funny

One of the first things I noticed about the Ballet Jörgen office is everyone’s camaraderie with each other. It’s a place where no one takes themselves too seriously, and — as cheesy as it sounds — everyone is friendly. With the talkative nature of many staff here, I sometimes wonder how they manage to be sociable and stay on top of their work and deadlines — but they do! 

If that’s not enough, the neverending stream of music flowing through the halls is a reminder of the day’s plans. Nowadays, it’s “Waltz of the Flowers” from The Nutcracker — the studio version of listening to retail Christmas music everyday. Oftentimes it’s popular music from George Brown Dance’s P106 performance class. Hearing someone sing about “who has the sauce” while I’m trying to enter financials is a good pick-me-up to a tiring morning.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from my time here, it’s that effective collaboration is the key to keeping a company internally strong. Ballet Jörgen doesn’t have too many people at its disposal, so everyone must step in and learn some new skills when necessary. Don’t have a videographer? You’re going to learn how to be one today! Can’t figure out Zoom streaming? Grab someone to be a pretend participant! Just remember to bring a “please,” “thank you,” and joke of the day.

So if you’re someone who would enjoy listening to ad-free music everyday, having a large window to see dancers in rehearsal, and seeing the hustle and bustle of pre-show prep and production, Ballet Jörgen  might be the place for you.

The Administrative Assistant position is funded through Canada Summer Jobs.

Written by Anglea Xu, Administrative Assistant.