A Fort St. John Christmas tradition and showcase of local talent returns to the stage this weekend.
It’s been three years since dancers last performed the The Nutcracker ballet in 2018, and choreographer Shauna Milne of Studio 2 Stage says it won’t be the same production of years past.
“It’s never the same. I’ve always changed something,” says Milne. “This year is probably my biggest change because I’ve added at least six roles.”
For those unfamiliar with The Nutcracker, the magical retelling of E.T.A. Hoffman’s famous tale begins on Christmas Eve with family and friends gathered to celebrate. The heroine, Clara, receives a wooden nutcracker that comes to life after everyone is asleep. Clara helps the Nutcracker in a battle between toy soldiers and the Mouse King and his army of mice, and in gratitude takes her to the Land of Sweets.
There are more than 50 dancers involved in this year’s production, as young as five and as old as 75. Casting took place in September and rehearsals have been ongoing since October.
“This is the largest cast we’ve had, by far, and the most adults I’ve ever had participate,” says Milne. “I think we’ve had a lot of people wanting to get [back] on the stage, even if it’s a ballet.”
Studio 2 Stage first mounted the biannual production in 2012, and is supported by the Northern Theatre Dance Society, Stage North, Alchemy Dance Collective, local middle schools, and visiting dancers from Dawson Creek.
“We have a lot of talent on that stage. A lot,” says Milne. “We are a local group but the kids work hard, they train 15 hours a week at least, sometimes 20, depends on what they’re doing. It’s like a part-time job."
Ella Brooks, Katelyn Brooks, Abby Taylor, and Jordyn Krezanoski are among the senior dancers in this year’s cast. What they're looking forward to most is applause — an actual audience applause — when the curtain rises and falls.
“It feels kind of strange but it feels nice to be performing for people again instead of just in front of a camera,” said Krezanoski, who marks her fifth performance with this year's show. "There's going to be a camera there, but there's also going to be a real audience."
But it’s also a scary at the same time, added Katelyn.
“We haven’t done it for so long. What used to be second nature is now kind of foreign again,” said Brooks, who marks her third performance, adding with a laugh, “We can’t just, if you wipe out, pause the recording and do it again. We just have to keep going.”
The Nutcracker runs Dec. 16, 18, and 19 at the North Peace Cultural Centre, and will also be livestreamed. Shorter, one-hour performances of excerpts from the production will also take place on Saturday for families with young children.
"It’s so nice to get the people that don’t know what our kids can do, to come out and see it," says Milne. "I think they would be surprised at what some of these kids are doing. Just getting everybody out to do something for Christmas is a good idea."
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