Bombers Maurice Leggett a walk-on with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet

Winnipeg Blue Bombers football player Maurice Leggett (centre) participates in a ballet class with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet at the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg Monday, December 26, 2016. Leggett is among 16 people selected for walk-on roles this year in the ballet company’s annual holiday show “The Nutcracker”. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Maurice Leggett is used to wearing tights – on the football field.

Still, a few people were disappointed when the Winnipeg Blue Bomber told them that he won’t be pulling on even tighter tights for his upcoming performance in “The Nutcracker” with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

He’ll be wearing a suit.

“I’m like, ‘Well, you get to see me in tights all the time,” he laughs.

“I can live one day without tights.”

Leggett, a linebacker for the past three seasons with Winnipeg’s Canadian Football League team, is among 17 people selected for walk-on roles this year in the ballet company’s annual holiday show. Walk-ons have been a tradition for more than a decade with the ballet. Other amateurs taking the stage this year include children’s musician Fred Penner and Winnipeg Jets hockey player Mark Scheifele.

Leggett says he leapt at the chance to tackle a more demanding part and has been attending recent classes with the troupe’s dancers to study their moves.

“I thought I was an athlete until I got in that class,” says the 30-year-old.

“They don’t slow it down for me … The guys are like, ‘You are brave, man.”’

Some of the dancers are just as interested in asking him about football, he says, and want to come out for a drills session next year.

“The parallels of ballet and football are quite similar so Moe is picking up the technique very quickly,” says Tara Birtwhistle, a teacher with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

“It has been fantastic to have Moe in the studio with us, he is incredibly enthusiastic.”

Leggett says he’s always been an artistic guy. He took a ballet class while in Grade 9 in Atlanta. Later, while attending Valdosta State University in Georgia, he studied voice and piano. He also plugs into classical music after Bomber games while on the bus.

So his teammates laughed, but weren’t surprised, when he told them he was going to be in the ballet, he says. They just wanted to know what he would be wearing.

Leggett will be performing Thursday in the Christmas party scene in the first act. He’ll be in the back, gracefully decorating a Christmas tree, but he’ll also be catching a ballerina in mid-air.

The lift is “definitely harder than it looks,” he says.

His biggest worry is that his hands will fumble on the ballerina’s hips or get caught in her costume.

And then there’s the big stage, the hot lights and the audience. It’s completely different than a football game, Leggett says.

“Even on the field, I get a little nervous,” he says. “But I hide behind the helmet.”

Some Bombers players who are in Winnipeg for the winter have told Leggett they’re getting front row seats. Leggett also expects to see some blue and gold faithful in the crowd.

His biggest fan – his nine-year-old son, Malik – will also be there.

“He thinks I can do everything,” says Leggett.

– CP

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