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Of snowflakes and sugar plums

The Nutcracker


The snowflakes were swirling around the rehearsal room floor very prettily one Sunday afternoon in late November. These were eight dancing snowflakes, the ballerinas, chosen to perform in this year’s production of The Nutcracker presented by Coasting Along Theatre Society (CATS).

This particular rehearsal was special since they were blocking out their parts in collaboration with the visiting guest dancers. The dancer who plays the Dew Drop Fairy is Ana Paula Oioli who has a smile that audiences will see from the back row. She’s from Brazil originally, but now lives in Vancouver where she dances with Coastal City Ballet along with other professionals.

While playing the part of the Snow Queen, she’s rehearsing with the Snow King, Diego Ramalho, and later with the Nutcracker character itself, performed by Yuta Kawakami. All three are also busy learning their roles for Hansel and Gretel in Vancouver. Ramalho plays the nasty witch while Kawakami is Hansel.

Kathleen Holmes is the ballerina, teacher and creative spirit responsible for bringing this six-performance production to life at the Raven’s Cry Theatre in Sechelt Dec. 27 to 30.

“We’re changing the choreography this year,” Holmes said, explaining that making it harder gives the dancers a challenge and helps them to learn more.

Many of the students are devoted to dance; the older girls in the snowflake scene have worked long and hard and will dance en pointe.

The Nutcracker is a colourful, fun story about a little girl, Clara (performed by Jasmyn Evered and Roxy Drewitz), who receives a gift of a toy soldier, a nutcracker, from a guest at their house party, Herr Drosselmeyer (performed by Pan Willson). John Conway, who played Drosselmeyer in previous productions, now becomes Mother Ginger in another switch of roles designed to refresh the production.

When Clara falls asleep under the magical Christmas tree, she is transported to an adventure where she meets the Sugar Plum Fairy (Erin McNeill) and a handsome cavalier (Miguel Nguyen), two guest dancers.

“Rehearsing with them is amazing,” Holmes said. “So talented, so full of energy. Such incredible dancers!”   

But most of the cast has been chosen from Coast dancers, students at one or two of the local dance schools. Young Cooper Jones plays Fritz, Clara’s brother, who breaks the nutcracker toy, much to her dismay. Taylor Lavale, a senior at Chatelech Secondary School, plays the Mouse King.

At the time of writing, tickets are still available from Scotiabank in Sechelt although the Sunday matinée is almost sold out. Performances will be lavish productions with costumes, music, lights and dazzling dancing. Shows are on Saturday, Dec. 27 at 8 p.m., Dec. 28 and 29 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Tuesday, Dec. 30 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $29 for adults and $19 for children. They are reserved seating. You can order them at the Scotiabank during open hours or by phoning 604-989-6050.