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If you see no other ballet this year, you’ll see The Nutcracker. This isn’t some movie promo, it’s just the fact.

The Nutcracker is a perennial Christmas favourite, and for many is the only ballet they’ll ever see.

It’s not too hard to see why - it’s accessible and tells a familiar and magical story, complete with the classic score by Tchaikovsky that people automatically associate with ballet.

“You play the music and they recognize it,” said Bengt Jörgen, artistic director and CEO of Canada’s Ballet Jörgen, the professional touring company returning to the region for a performance at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. “People are already engaged.”

Jörgen said that since the ballet was first staged in the U.S. on Christmas Eve in 1944, it has become a holiday tradition in North America, more so here than anywhere else.

“It is quite unreal how strongly The Nutcracker has become embedded in that seasonal tradition,” he said.

Many in the audience on Dec. 8 and 9 will have already seen the show, as it’s played at Brock’s Centre for the Arts in previous years.

“Ballet Jörgen Canada is easily the most exciting chamber company in dance today.”

– The Hamilton Spectator

Jörgen said they’ll be seeing a new show, one which isn’t by the compromises the ballet company had to make to mount the production on the smaller stage at Brock. “With the new venue, it’s going to be a whole new experience,” he said.

The Nutcracker is like an introductory course to ballet - both for the audience and the performers. The play involves numerous children’s roles, and Jörgen said that for many reasons, they fill them with children.

Back in September, Niagara youth auditioned for the roles of lumberjacks, snowflakes, mounties and bear cubs. Over the next few months, these talented youth will spend a part of their weekends rehearsing and practicing at our partnering dance studio, the Wendy Leard School of Dance in Niagara Falls.

“We believe it’s better to have children playing children’s parts than to have adults to play children’s parts,” he said. For one thing, he said, it gives kids who have expressed an interest in dance the opportunity to perform with professionals and to learn what type of commitment it takes to mount a professional production.

“It’s like playing with the top athletes when you’re in hockey,” he said. As well, the nature of ballet is that it demands dancers start learning early in order to master it. The Nutcracker, he said, is a way to develop the next generation of dancers.

“We want to be constantly expanding our recruiting, and it starts at an early age,” Jörgen said.

For the younger members of the audience, there’s the appeal of seeing children on stage. It’s not unlike the popularity of children’s programming on Family Channel and YTV.

“Children love to watch other children,” Jorgen said. “They’re much more interested in children than adults because they can relate.”

- Mike Zettel

Canada’s Ballet Jörgen The Nutcracker A Canadian Tradition Partridge Hall MEMBERS: $39.95 CHILDREN (13 + UNDER): $25 REGULAR: $47

7PM Tues 8 + Wed 9 Dec 43 CENTRESTAGE


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