Twelve tiny dancers twirl across the hardwood floor waving pieces of fluorescent blue, pink and yellow gauzy fabric.
They leap, twist and flail their limbs, pony tails swinging, pink tulle tutus bouncing with each step. Cheeks flushed, laughing and panting, they let the rhythm and sound of Owl City’s “Fireflies” choreograph their movements.
The dance teacher, Katie Pearce, stops the music and the tiny dancers freeze.
“Okay, the music is going to go crazy now. But I still want to see ballet dancers. I want to see those toes pointed like we’ve been practicing,” she says.
Pearce presses play, and the tiny dancers erupt in a whoosh of fabric.
On December 4, about eight Dawson City dancers who regularly take a ballet/jazz class on Thursday afternoons with Pearce at KIAC Oddfellows Hall in Dawson City will be in the spotlight as part of the Northern Lights School of Dance (NLSD) production of Nutcracker at Diamond Tooth Gerties.
Some have performed in the production when it has come to Dawson before. For others, it will be their first time.
Six-year-old Macy has performed all three times the production has taken place in Dawson, previously as a mouse and a snowflake.
For this year’s performance, she will either be a harlequin doll, or a mouse again.
Her mom, Janice Rose, says Macy doesn’t get nervous on the big stage.
“I love seeing her perform,” Rose says, “It’s wonderful. It’s the one opportunity to experience what a real production is like. They do her hair all slicked back, they bring costumes… [Macy] gets treated like real ballerina!”
The NLSD, based in Whitehorse, trains its students in ballet, modern, creative movement, jazz, tap, hip hop and street dance. The non-profit dance academy has been performing a version of Nutcracker as an annual event since 2002.
The cast of Nutcracker is composed of about 50 students selected through auditions held in September in Whitehorse.
An NLSD instructor will arrive in Dawson to work with Pearce’s young dancers a few days before the performance. There will also be the appearance of local “celebs”, joining the cast as “Adult Party Guests”.
Macy says she is excited for the big night, however, like her mom said she doesn’t appear to have pre-show jitters. Especially when its 4:30 p.m. and she’s tired, hungry, and in need of a juice box at the end of her dance practice. Her powder pink tutu sticks out of the top of her black snowpants like an inverted cupcake liner.
Being on stage feels “pretty good,” she says in a matter-of-fact tone.
Macy has been taking Pearce’s basic ballet and jazz skills class since it started at KIAC three summers ago. This is the first winter Pearce has continued the sessions, with a 10-week program beginning at the end of September.
NLSD gave the Dawson dancers an open invitation to be a part of Nutcracker, and Macy and the others voluntarily submitted their names.
Fellow dancer, Kaitlin, 6, at the moment seems more captivated by the thought of being back under the lights. She has also been in the production before.
“I like the snowflake,” she says, referring to her favourite part/character.
“I never get sick of the story,” she jumps in.
Her eyes light up as she continues: “Everything is so professional, the props, the lights, the costumes… it’s wonderful that it can come to a small community and we get to see it.”
Pearce, a dancer at Diamond Tooth Gerties and graduate of the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Victoria, will not be a part of the production, but she values what it brings to Dawson and her students.
“Being onstage is pretty amazing for them,” she says, “Maybe they saw Nutcracker in previous years, but now the chance to be onstage is pretty exciting.”
Dawson doesn’t offer young dancers the opportunity to perform very often, she continues, even if they do get to do classes with her that teach the structure of ballet alongside exploration of movement and style, as demonstrated with the fabric-twirling number.
“And even all the children who get to watch it, it’s a little inspiring,” she says, “just to see such a great performance with all the kids involved—it really opens their eyes, they realize maybe they can join dance if they want.”
The show at Gerties takes place at 3 p.m.
After Dawson, the Nutcracker will be in Whitehorse at the Yukon Arts Centre on December 9 and 10 at 7 p.m. Matinees are scheduled for December 8 and 9 at 1 p.m.
Tickets are available in advance at KIAC and Maximilian’s Gold Rush Emporium in Dawson, and the YAC box office and Arts Underground in Whitehorse.
Alyssa Friesen is our co-editor in Dawson City.