It is 3:30 in the afternoon, on a beautiful fall day in Whitehorse, and the long narrow hallway at Northern Lights School of Dance (NLSD) is bursting at the seams. Seventy dancers, ranging in age from three to 33, noisily wait their turn to audition.
Yes, it is that time of year again, and artistic directors Deborah Lemaire and Rebecca Reynolds are ready to take on the challenge of putting together this year’s version of a Christmas classic: The Nutcracker.
This is no small feat, and each year presents its own challenges, depending on the group dynamics at the studio. This year, there is an overabundance of very young dancers. There really are only half as many parts as there are dancers auditioning.
The only way to allow all who audition an opportunity is to double cast many of the roles in the ballet.
Sometimes dancers are faced with disappointment, but that is the nature of what is required for putting on such a production. This year, 15 girls try out for the part of Clara. Two are chosen based on technique, acting ability, focus, commitment and endurance. This is how an audition works.
The most important thing for a performer to remember, however, is that “there is no small part”: everyone’s energy, presence and joy of dance create the magic that makes The Nutcracker such a wonderful Christmas presentation for the people of Whitehorse.
From now until December, every weekend will be taken up by rehearsals at the studio. Dancers cannot miss rehearsals; it is a huge commitment for all involved. Lemaire oversees the entire production.
Several choreographers contribute their time, expertise and creativity. Costumes have to be altered to fit the ever-changing ensemble of dancers. Allison Stopp does the alterations and Katie Arnholz volunteers hours as costume co-ordinator.
Lights and set design, at the Yukon Arts Centre, have to be discussed at the beginning of October. Advertising has to start now, even though December may seem a ways off yet.
This year, too, The Nutcracker will do a short tour to the Klondike where a few select Dawsonites will be invited to take part in the show. Local children will perform some of the many dances, and the party scene in Act I will require that some local adults take their tuxes and ball gowns out of their closets in order to tread the boards in this classic ballet.
It is only the beginning of autumn, but at NLSD, Tchaikovsky’s familiar Christmas soundtrack will be playing every weekend from now until the closing night curtain, in December.
This production is a huge endeavour. It is expensive. It is tiring. It is joy-filled and sometimes tear-filled. It is a volunteer mega-fest. And, for many Yukoners, it is a Christmas tradition.