Jillian Vanstone, a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, is an accomplished and versatile ballerina, as adept in the great 19th-century classics as she is in masterworks of the 20th-century repertoire or brand new ballets on the cutting edge of the art form.
Vanstone combines strong though seemingly effortless technique with natural poise, lyrical grace and expressive musicality. Although she is more than equal to the challenge of abstract, non-narrative works, Vanstone’s natural métier is the dramatic repertoire in which her intelligence and incandescent stage presence shine to their fullest. Whether the role is that of a tragic heroine or serene fairytale princess, Vanstone has the gift of establishing and developing her stage character so that the acting and dancing become an indivisible and compelling whole.
As Globe and Mail dance critic Paula Citron has aptly noted, Vanstone “understands the concept of character beyond steps.”
In praising her first performance as the princess in The Sleeping Beauty, Michael Crabb described for Britain’s The Dancing Times how Vanstone “romped through her own Aurora debut with irresistible, almost coquettish high spirits.”
Jillian Vanstone was born in Nanaimo, British Columbia where at age six she began ballet studies at the Kirkwood Academy of Performing Arts. Within two years she had already determined that dance was her life’s calling. In 1994 she passed the rigorous audition process to be accepted into Canada’s prestigious National Ballet School in Toronto where she later earned two coveted awards.
Following her graduation Vanstone entered the National Ballet of Canada in 1999, was promoted to second soloist in 2003, to first soloist three years later before being appointed a principal in 2011.
Her extensive repertoire includes the title roles in Giselle and The Sleeping Beauty along with major featured roles in such works as George Balanchine’s Apollo (Calliope), James Kudelka’s staging of The Nutcracker (Sugar Plum Fairy), John Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew (Bianca and the heroine, Kate) and Onegin (Olga), Ronald Hynd’s The Merry Widow (Valencienne), John Neumeier’s The Seagull (Nina), Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story Suite (Maria) and Kudelka’s The Four Seasons (Spring). Vanstone has also appeared in the premiere productions of numerous works commissioned by the National Ballet of Canada and in June 2011 was picked by internationally renowned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon to dance the title lead in the North American premiere of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.