Former resident at Kennedy Center

Posted: January 25, 2013

The Winchester Star

Jackson “Jack” Dwyer, formerly of Winchester, is performing at the John F. Kenney Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Winchester — Ballet dancer Jackson “Jack” Dwyer remembers the trips he took as a teenager to see shows at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Magnificent performances of ballet troupes or Broadway musicals filled the stage and made an indelible impression on his young mind.

Now, Jack, 21, is seeing the Kennedy Center from a different perspective — onstage. He is performing as part of the corps de ballet in the National Ballet of Canada’s original production of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” which runs through Sunday.

The corps de ballet is made up of the junior members of the dance company.

“It is very different to be on the other side, not to be in the audience anymore but actually onstage,” said Jack. Formerly of Winchester, he now lives in Toronto. “It is a beautiful venue and they have been so nice. The hospitality is great, and they treat all the artists very well.”

Jack’s parents, Kitty and Ed Dwyer of Winchester, are thrilled to have their son so close and to see him perform again. They went with a group to see the show Saturday, but it was their second time seeing it. They flew to Toronto in June 2011 for the Canadian premier.

“Last time, we had fabulous seats but on the side of the stage,” said Kitty, a reference librarian at Handley Library. “This time we were in the orchestra but straight back in the center, so we could see everything.”

The show, which is based on Lewis Carroll’s book, was created by British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon with a score by Joby Talbot. It is a co-production between the National Ballet of Canada and London’s Royal Ballet.

The production re-imagines the favorite characters of “Alice” -— Alice, the White Rabbit, the Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire Cat — in new and exciting ways, Jack said. It is a “theatrical production” with beautiful costumes and different forms of media, so people shouldn’t expect a traditional ballet.

Jack has three small roles in the show — as a flower, a card, and a gardener for the Queen of Hearts. The last is the most prominent because it gives him a solo dance.

As the third act opens, three of the queen’s gardeners are desperately trying to paint white roses red “so we don’t lose our heads,” he said. There is a machine in the bush that flips the roses back to white.

“Alice appears at the end of the dance and we think that all the bushes are pretty much red, and we have done a good job only to see that in an instant, the whole bush snaps to white,” he said. “It is a little comical and usually gets quite a few laughs.”

It is also a “technically demanding dance” with many jumps and difficult turns, Jack said.

“It is a great piece for dancers to tackle because it has both an acting element in it and it is quite a technical challenge for the junior members,” he said.

Jack joined the National Ballet of Canada in fall 2010, a few months after he graduated from John Cranko Ballet School in Stuttgart, Germany. He spent about a year as an apprentice and was promoted to the corps in summer 2011.

The company extended John’s contract, so he knows he will be in Canada at least another year. But as long as he can “keep dancing and learning and growing as an artist,” that is what is most important to him, he said. “What city I do it in is not such a huge consideration.”

Kitty is happy her son has found success in Toronto because it is within a reasonable distance for visits. Add to that the fact that he is dancing with a top tier company and earning a “living wage” so he can pursue his art and pay his bills, “which is not very typical,” she said.

The Dwyers have lived in Winchester nine years, since they relocated from Canada for Ed’s work, Kitty said. He is Canadian and she is American. They also have a daughter, Caitlin, who lives in Montreal. She flew down for the performance Saturday.

After that show, Jack came to Winchester for a day and said he enjoyed his mother’s cooking and time away from the “craziness of being in a theater.”

Although his parents live here, Jack has spent much of his life in Canada. After attending the National Ballet School from grades six to eight, the pressure became too much in his ninth-grade year. That fall he left the school and moved back home with his parents, who had already relocated to Winchester from Montreal, his mother said.

He enrolled at Handley High School and finished the year in Winchester before realizing how much he loved his art, Kitty said.

“It gave him insights on what being a typical teenager was,” she said. “It also made him reassess what he wanted to do with his life and strengthen that passion to pursue dance at the highest level.”

The ballet company will leave Monday to go back to Canada and prepare for a production of Russian choreographer Alexei Ratmansky’s “Romeo and Juliet” Jan. 31 in Ottawa, Ontario.


The performances of the National Ballet of Canada’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” will be held at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets range from $45 to $150.

Tickets can be purchased at the Kennedy Center box office by calling 800-444-1324 or visit

— Contact Laura McFarland at