Fifty young dancers from Victoria have given up their Sundays since September training to play rats, mice and soldiers in Alberta Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker with the Victoria Symphony, being hosted by Dance Victoria at the Royal Theatre this week.
“You couldn’t possibly do Clara’s dream, and that’s basically what Nutcracker is, without her friends. It would be a lonely place. I just couldn’t imagine doing it without the freshness, joyfulness and all the best things children are in their finest moments,” says Wendy Vernon, director of the junior school at Pacific Dance Cetre in Cordova Bay. “It always amazes me when a 21st century kid can be awestruck by the Nutcracker. It’s contagious. The audience really picks up on that quality the children bring, an adult doesn’t still have that breathlessness.”
The children are under the guidance of Vernon as the repetiteur, who was given the task of deciphering the movement from a DVD performance of Nutcracker. “I spent the summer notating every step, every arm, every count. I had to be very detailed right down to where they’re looking,” says Vernon. Then she began teaching the steps to the children who made it through the audition process in June.
“We had to have auditions early this year because the company was going to be on tour in China until October and that would have been just too late to get them prepared,” she says.
Combine the children with Edmund Stripe’s choreography and Emmy Award-winner Zack Brown’s design and it firmly plants this opulent family production in early 20th century Tsarist Russia.
The last time Alberta Ballet performed Nutcracker in Victoria was in 2009.
Forty-five minutes before each performance, storyteller Jim Leard recounts the story of the Nutcracker, so everyone knows what to expect when they enter the theatre.
“This ballet is great for people who might be afraid of ballet or don’t understand what it’s all about,” says Vernon. “I really encourage those people to see it. It’s really accessible, it brings out the child in all of us. And when you become the child, Christmas becomes what we remember — and that’s the miracle.” M
Alberta Ballet with the Victoria Symphony
Dec. 2 and 3 at 7:30 pm
Dec. 3 and 4 at 2 pm
Tickets starting at $25
available at rmts.bc.ca or 250-386-6121