Beloved Nutcracker Ballet draws audience into the seats … and onto the stage

There is no surer sign of the holiday season than the annual staging of The Nutcracker.

The Northern Lights School of Dance is presenting the traditional ballet on December 2, in Dawson City and on December 7 and 8, in Whitehorse.

This is the fourth year that this holiday favourite will be performed in Dawson, and kids, adults and two non-profit organizations are rallying together to ensure aspiring dancers have a chance to step into the spotlight, as well as offering the community a chance to take in the holiday splendour.

Rebecca Reynolds, principal of the dance school and choreographer for the show, has

been involved in one way or another with this holiday tradition for over 25 years.

“My mom used to run a ballet school in Red Deer, Alberta,” she says. “I played my first role when I was 10 years old.”

The dance veteran came to Whitehorse in 2000 to dance with the Follies. She has been with the Northern Lights school for 10 years now and started the production of The Nutcracker eight years ago.

“It started off small, but has become full-scale over the years,” she says. “We’ve slowly been working on our costumes and sets, building them up to where we want them.”

In order to come to Dawson, the show needs the largest rental cube van on the market, a 40-passenger charter bus and the entire 2nd floor of the Downtown Hotel to accommodate a choreographer, an administrator, an artistic director, stage manager, costume coordinator, three chaperones and 35 cast members, most of whom are kids.

Despite all the work involved with putting a production on the road, Reynolds’ zest has

not diminished. Her enthusiasm is evident as she talks about the steps it takes to bring more than 30 kids and a handful of adults onto the stage and into the spotlight.

Reynolds arrived in Dawson First. She came three days before show time to start training the local kids and adults who will be part of the production. Two days before show time, the stage manager arrived with the cube van filled with the entire Nutcracker set puzzle-pieced inside.

“We bring it all because we’re going directly to the Yukon Arts Centre in Whitehorse after Dawson,” says Reynolds. But as the Gerties stage is only a quarter the size of the arts centre, they’ll have to carefully pack, and then extract, what they need for Dawson.

The bus with the cast arrives the day before the performance. While one would think so many kids away from home might turn unruly, Reynolds has nothing but praise for the would-be young stars. “Ballet dancers don’t tend to gravitate toward trouble,” she says. “They’re just too busy – most of their lives are spent in the studio.”

After the performance, the cast will leave right away, while Reynolds and the crew will depart the next day, heading straight to the arts centre to start setting up for the next show.

Trained dancers are not the only ones that will get a chance to strut their stuff in Dawson. Every year, the Nutcracker invites members of the community to get involved and get on the stage.

The Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC) helps with the recruitment of several Dawsonites to provide some local flavour on-stage.

Matt Sarty, events coordinator at KIAC, signs up more than 20 local kids and six

adults for on-stage participation. The selection process is usually first come, first served.

“Parents are already approaching me in the supermarket in October asking about sign-up for the kids,” Sarty chuckles. “The Dawson kids are excited to participate and many come back year after year. It’s actually harder to find adults who will join in.”

Sarty thinks the reason is that kids are more comfortable on stage, which makes it easier to recruit them.

“The adults have to be coaxed and guilted and usually agree reluctantly,” Sarty says.

But in the end, everyone has a good time. “It’s a staple of the holiday season,” Sarty says. “It’s become a tradition in Dawson.”

Paul Robitaille, marketing events manager for the Klondike Visitors Association, is happy to donate the Diamond Tooth Gerties Gambling Hall for the event. He points out that the building is being opened especially for this production – they are usually closed from October to January.

Robitaille feels that supporting the production of The Nutcracker in Dawson enhances the community calendar of events. “This is a good family offer,” he says.

Dawson City seems to agree. Every year, The Nutcracker has sold out.

The Northern Lights School Dance performance of The Nutcracker will take place in Dawson City at Diamond Tooth Gerties on Dec. 2 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for kids and seniors.

The performance in Whitehorse will be at the Yukon Arts Centre on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults, $12 for kids and seniors.

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