The annual Cadance Academy Nutcracker Ballet is set to make an exciting comeback at the Festival Theatre in Wolfville this December after a cancellation in 2020 due to the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic. The first show will be held on Saturday December 11, starting at 7:00pm while the second show will begin at 1:00pm on Sunday December 12. The origins of The Nutcracker date back to 15th century Germany, where nutcrackers were given as tokens that were believed to bring families good luck and protect their homes. With a score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and a libretto adapted from E. T. A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, The Nutcracker premiered in 1892 as a Christmas ballet choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov. It has since evolved into a production performed globally each year by numerous ballet companies. Cadance’s first performance of The Nutcracker was staged in December 2006. Since that time, the show has grown significantly and has become a tradition for both the audience members and performers.
The cast includes several generations of family members, ranging from children to grandparents, performing alongside each other. This year’s epic father-daughter pas de deux featuring Ward MacDonald and his daughter Aries is sure to warm everyone’s heart. Ward, a.k.a Drosselmeyer, says, “It’s been a privilege to be part of Cadance’s Nutcracker production for almost 6 years. It has been a magical experience that my daughter Aries and I have been able to share the stage. I have always respected the skill and physical conditioning that dancers need. It was out of that respect that I recently started taking ballet lessons myself. I have been an athlete my whole life, but I have NEVER had to work so hard on core stability, and upper body power, and leg strength, and flexibility, and coordination. But also, I have never had so much fun!” In addition to having played a role in The Nutcracker for several years, this year Aries debuted as a choreographer. She too is extremely excited about the staging of her pieces.
Heidi Imlay will also be dancing with her children Jasmine, Zachariah, and Vahn in the party scene, and the audience is sure to be wowed by Elaine Boyd performing alongside her granddaughter Clara Maxner. Several other groups of siblings and other relatives are included in the cast, enhancing the family-like atmosphere that the show generates.
Jackson Young, a seasoned dancer who has spent several years training and assisting at the studio, will again play the lead role as The Nutcracker. “The Nutcracker has definitely been a big part of my life ever since I was seven years old,” says Young. “Being able to come back to the studio right now and being able to put on a show in December feels great.”
The female lead, Clara, will be played by another long-time student and teaching assistant, Lily Matheson-Wood. She is “thrilled” to be cast as Clara and very excited that the Nutcracker is returning. She considers the cancellation of the 2020 show a big adjustment for performers, dance teachers, parents, and community members, as it is an event that everyone looks forward to all year. Lily loves dancing and performing and is eager for showtime to arrive: “The best reward is seeing the end product of what you have accomplished.”
Another familiar Nutcracker performer, Anna Lukeman, is equally thrilled to be back: “The Nutcracker has been the highlight of my holiday season every year since I was seven. This year I am so excited to be a lead snowflake and the Sugar Plum Fairy. It has been my dream since I started dancing to work my way up to these roles. I am really excited to be back on the stage performing!”
“Mother Ginger and her children” is one of the most exciting parts of the show, and is popular with young performers as it is fun and very lively. There is always a lot of “naughty business” with the lollipops, which are usually stolen from the Nutcracker and Clara. Mother Ginger herself is absolutely hysterical. No one can really predict what she will pull out of her bodice next or when one of her children will pop out from underneath her dress. What is known for sure is that it is always very entertaining and full of surprises. This year Mother Ginger is once again played by the talented and entertaining Allison Carey-Millet, who has played the character for several years. “It is an honour to be part of this magical tradition each year,” she says. “The excited energy of the children is contagious and it is a wonderful way to start the holiday season!”
This year’s cast also includes Colette Nap, a former professional dancer from Newfoundland who will debut as Clara’s mom and also plays a role in Act 2. Colette has been dancing since childhood and is very thankful that after a 20 year hiatus,“Cadance lured me back just last year!” This will be her first Nutcracker performance.
Gaea Jess, the Artistic Director, specializes in world dance, and embraces different cultural and racial backgrounds and the uniqueness of what each performer brings to the stage. Working with her team of highly-trained choreographers, the cast has been selected based on their level of experience and expertise. Over the years Cadance has become aware of controversy surrounding cultural dances included in The Nutcracker, notably the Arabian, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese dances. Cadance Academy aims to eliminate any possibility of stereotyping with regards to varying cultures so this year they decided to rename and rework some of the pieces to ensure that performers, crew, and audience members alike continue to feel respected and included, and are comfortable with all aspects of the show.
Jess also notes that “a big part of making the show possible is the assistance provided by the volunteers, donors and sponsors. Not to be forgotten either, are the technical crew and theatre staff. Cadance wishes to thank each and every individual and company who will be playing a part in making this year’s show bigger and better. For the audience members who have grown used to coming every year, and for whom this year is your first time viewing the show, you are sure to be delighted and surprised with the comeback performance. Make sure you don’t miss out on this magical tradition which will definitely put you in the mood for the holidays!”
For more information and to purchase tickets visit cadanceacademy.ca
Cover image: Photo by Paul Wegleitner Fine Art Photography (pwfap.ca) Allison Carey-Millet as Mother Ginger, along with her children, left to right, back row: Gabriella Cuartero, Charlotte Lee, Allison Carey-Milket, Melrose Kinney and Eliza Godfrey; front row: Lacey Smith, Meryk Jess-Wegleitner, Axton Sharpe and Beatrix Gadon. Land of Sweets” backdrop by Holly Carr.