The mystery surrounding what happened to the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanov during the summer of 1918 continued well into the 20th Century.
The youngest daughter of the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas the Second, and his wife Alexandra, was executed along with her three sisters and brother during the Russian Revolution.
However, when the bodies of the tsar’s family were discovered in 1991, there were doubts about the body Anastasia, fueling rumours she had survived and escaped.
For 100 years, people have been drawn to the story about what happened to the 17-year-old grand duchess, giving rise to a multitude of books, movies and musicals.
People claiming to be members of the Romanov family started popping up all over the world, including the most famous of those being Anna Anderson, who said she was Anastasia and a soldier saved her life. She defended her story until she passed away in 1984.
Since, DNA tests have proved she had nothing in common with the Romanov family.
In 2007, the last two bodies were eventually discovered, those of Anastasia’s sister Maria and her brother Alexei, putting the mystery to bed.
Canada’s Ballet Jörgen will be bringing the tragic tale of the last Russian tsar’s daughter Anastasia to the ACT Arts Centre in Maple Ridge, along with the modern mythology in a full-length ballet performed to an original score by Russian/Canadian composer Ivan Barbotin.
Maple Ridge’s own Kimberly Dyer is performing with the company for this portion of the tour.
Last year, Dyer graduated from the dance program at George Brown College in Toronto. Now, she is in the Canada’s Ballet Jörgen mentorship program.
Ballet was always her favourite since starting classes at the age of 5.
“Ballet has always been my favourite. I think because I like the music the best and I love the flow of the movement and I love the structure of it,” said Dyer, sitting in the Maple Ridge Dance Circle studio, where she took dance as a child.
“I enjoy the discipline of it. I like to work hard and ballet is very difficult. And there are certain ways you have to do certain things,” she said, explaining that ballet originated from court dances hundreds of years ago and there is a certain regalness to the way dancers have to carry themselves.
In previous shows, Dyer has played the part of a chambermaid and a nun. Although she has not been cast yet for the Maple Ridge show, she does not expect her roles to change, although she might pick up an additional dance number.
This is the first time the 21-year-old ballerina has performed in a professional role in a ballet performance, although she has performed with Ballet Jörgen before as a local participant in the production of Coppélia in 2011 and Swan Lake in 2013.
“I love it. I love the whole experience. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” said Dyer.
“I really like going to the different theatres and getting a chance to perform for different audiences and being able to tell a story and sort of be in another world,” she added.
She loves the challenge of showing emotion through her body.
“I think it’s harder sometimes because you just can’t say anything with your voice. You have to show it in your body. And sometimes that can make the emotions more pure, I think, than if you had to say it out loud,” said the ballerina.
“Anastasia is a very sad ballet,” explained Dyer.
“There are times when people are crying and showing their utter despair. And sometimes that’s a lot more effective to see someone breaking down on stage than to say, ‘I am so sad.'”
Her favourite thing about this ballet is seeing Anastasia’s journey.
“Her journey from being a carefree girl to a more mature character who goes through a traumatic experience.”
Dyer will be touring for two weeks with the company before returning to Toronto to work on learning repertoire from other ballets.
She is excited to be a part of the production.
“Even though they are smaller roles, I enjoy being able to support the cast and still be a part of the company and a part of the story.”