It was around the New Year of 1991 when I first discussed the idea of a full length Nutcracker with my friends Mark Erikson and Macarena Ganderillas while visiting them at their North Hollywood home. Mark had some experience with a Nutcracker Ballet co-production while attending ballet school in Fort Worth Texas, so he was excited about the idea and encouraged me to pursue it. Once back home, I discussed the idea further with family and friends, contacted the Prince George Symphony Orchestra and set the wheels in motion. We presented the first annual Nutcracker Ballet in December 1991. Judy Russell’s Enchainement Dance Centre would provide the dancing cast, the costumes, the set, the lighting design and special effects. The PGSO would provide the music. Our goal with the work was to not only start a family tradition for our community, but to also give inspired young dancers the opportunity to perform in a classic full length ballet complete with a live symphony orchestra. Experiencing the joy of performing with a live orchestra is rare, especially in smaller communities. Prince George is one of a select few communities that can boast having a professional symphony orchestra. The raw energy and deep inner emotion that is elicited by the forces of the live music and the strength of the dancing core is palpable. The live ballet can be visceral for both the audience and performer. Casting the first ballet was an exciting challenge. It was my hope that we could draw on dancing talent from all of the dance schools in the City. The only exception would be casting a local Prince. Luckily, I had an ace-in-the-hole. A year or two prior, we had sent off one of our young male dancers to train at the National Ballet School of Canada, Toronto. Chris Larsen was just 13 when he left home to start his ballet career. By the time he was 15, Chris had developed into a strong young man. I mentioned the idea to him and he was eager and able to return home to fill the role of the Nutcracker Prince two years running. After Chris could no longer leave the Ballet school it became necessary to “import” successive professional Nutcracker Princes. Eventually an increase in boys training at the dance studio meant that we would be able to cast our Nutcracker Princes locally. And have done for each biannual Nutcracker since 2001. This year marks the 16th production of the Nutcracker Ballet. My Nuts team and I continue to draw on talent from within our community, but for the first time in a long while we have had to look outward for the Nutcracker Prince. Again good fortune hit. This year our Nutcracker Prince hails from Terrace. Last March, I spotted Julian Hunt at the Prince George Dance Festival and saw immediately his potential to fill the role of the Prince. Julian is a lovely, talented young man who will have a great career if he wishes. Of course, the ballet would be incomplete without a ballerina or two, or three. Over the years I have had the great pleasure to cast many wonderfully talented young women in a variety of roles. This year is no exception. From Clara, to the Snow Queen to the Sugar Plum Fairy I continue to be blessed with many inspired and dedicated young dancers. In fact, I have double cast various principle roles again this year, as there are multiple able dancers. The dancing roles in the Nutcracker are challenging and much coveted. The dancers selected for the principle roles must be well trained, quick learners and strong. The partner work alone requires unbelievable strength and stamina. Not to mention the intestinal fortitude needed to dance two full shows per day en pointe. We do our best to shift the dancers on and off, so that they are able to restore their bodies, but they are still required to dance something in each show. These young people troop on with little whining and fanfare. Truly inspiring. One of the strongest traditions associated with our production of the Nutcracker is that of the adult participation in various scenes throughout the show. In fact, scene one, “The Party Scene”, features nearly 100 performers of various ages from 3 years to 60. Costuming this cast is a huge job. Not only are there 100 performers, but several of the children’s roles in the scene are double cast meaning that in some cases there are two costumes for each role. There is at least one very important adult role in the Nutcracker. Clara’s mysterious Uncle Drosselmeyer. A clock maker, a magician and a bon vivante, Drosslemeyer appears in Clara’s dream to help her navigate her dream world. He helps her avoid danger when she encounters the scary life sized mice, led by the menacing Mouse King. He enables her meeting the Nutcracker Prince. Uncle Drosselmeyer escorts Clara through the lands of snow and sweets. And he is there to comfort Clara when she awakes from her magical journey. This role was originally performed by Bill Russell. Bill began taking adult ballet classes in 1989 with the hope of getting in shape and working off a growing bulge above his belt. Little did he know that it would lead to 10 successive productions as Drosselmeyer. Bill describes the role as a unique combination of movement and acting. Mostly acting, but also physically demanding. The various dance sequences that require motion and lifting are difficult to make look easy. Luckily, this year the role of Drosselmeyer is being played by the impressive and strong, Andrew Russell. A student of ballet since his early youth, Andrew has taken on the role and has made it his own since 2013. This year’s Nutcracker has been in rehearsals for almost two months and promises to be one of the best ever. The costumes are now out of mothballs and are being restored and fitted, some are the original ones designed and built in 1991. The props, headpieces and masks are all being fluffed up and repaired as required. Soon the set will be hauled out of storage and inspected for necessary repairs and repainting.