BY AISLINN CORNETT

Not only is choreographer and artistic director Rebecca Reynolds influencing this year’s Nutcracker production, she is also involved in the upcoming Varietease show and 2009 Rendezvous Can-Can performances as well.

It’s a good thing she’s sporting her hot pink “woodcutting gloves” because this ambitious dance instructor has got her hands full.

Reynolds took over as artistic director of Northern Lights School of Dance (NLSD) last September and you could say she was born into the role: Reynolds’ Mom, who is her biggest influence, was an artistic director and studio owner in Edmonton, Alberta, where she grew up so, in a way, “I trained for it my whole life,” she says. “I had no choice.”

Reynolds’ “middle man” role in this year’s Nutcracker production consists of helping run rehearsal schedules, choreography and communicating with the other artistic director, Deborah Lemare, students and parents.

Her job also includes keeping the 60-plus dancers motivated, recognized and encouraged during the three-month rehearsal schedule.

This may be Reynolds’ first crack with artistic directing, but she’s quite familiar with the production as she’s been attached to The Nutcracker for 20 years. Her first Nutcracker experience was at the age of 10 with the Alberta Ballet.

“The months it takes to do … it’s a flash in the pan for me, but for the kids, this memory will stay with them forever.”

“I’ll never forget that feeling of being right on the wings when the lights come on,” Reynolds says. “Those memories are still very fresh.”

This romance she describes, along with the music, is what keeps her drawn to the Christmastime ballet story.

Although it was the Frantic Follies that first brought Reynolds to the Yukon, she moved here in 2002 after training at the Red Deer Conservatory of Ballet in the Cecchetti Method and at Grant McEwan where she received her diploma in modern dance.

Mere days after putting word out that she was a dance instructor looking for work in Whitehorse, Reynolds was hired at NLSD where she teaches modern, ballet and point classes.

When she was younger, Reynolds remembers crying for days because she didn’t get to be Clara, but was “pretty jazzed to be a bonbon” and sugarplum fairy.

She points out the importance of every role in The Nutcracker, even the little mice, who Reynolds says always steal the show.

Reynolds has seen The Nutcracker from all angles and says her current role has made her regret many things she did to her artistic directors.

“Whatever I didn’t do as a kid, I’m telling the kids to do now,” she says, describing the difficulties of trying to coax the students into character during studio time. “It’s my payback.”

Her goal in this year’s production is to maintain the quality of the traditional show while making it fresh.

Reynolds still finds it strange to think of herself as a choreographer. With The Nutcracker, Varietease and Rendezvous lineup, “I’m juggling a few balls right now,” she says laughing. But she’s looking forward to the new year when she can flip into the dancer role for awhile.

She doesn’t see much down time with directing, choreography, teaching and part-time waitressing, but that’s not all. She also impersonates a woodcutter by day with her boyfriend. She isn’t allowed to touch the chainsaw, but her body is perfectly tuned to the physical labour of wood hauling.

Reynolds is looking forward to a hiatus in Honduras after The Nutcracker wraps up, but says she loves the Yukon and isn’t planning on going anywhere anytime soon. After all, “Where else in Canada can you teach ballet and cut wood all in the same day?”

The Nutcracker will be presented Friday and Saturday, Dec. 5 and 6, at 7 p.m. A 2 p.m. matinée will be presented on the Saturday. Tickets are available at Arts Underground and the Yukon Arts Centre Box Office.

PHOTO: RICK MASSIE massierick@hotmail.com