A ballet like no other
The Nutcracker’s broad, seasonal appeal draws a more exuberant audience, dancer says
Dancers spend a lot of time focused on themselves, says Nicole Caron, one of the star performers of the Alberta Ballet company here this weekend.
“Our careers can be so self-absorbing,” Caron says over the phone from Calgary, just out of rehearsals for the three-city tour of The
Nutcracker. “A lot of time is spent dancing in front of mirrors,” she says. There, a dancer checks her reflection to see if her head is angled just so or if a finger sticks too far out.
Caron gives herself a break from this demand for perfection with volunteer work in Calgary. She’s the Big Sister to a 10-year-old girl she met through Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Calgary. It’s more than just an opportunity for Caron to give back to the community.
“It’s just nice to be with a younger child — they’re so honest,” she says. “Kids are so thankful for everything.”
The pair talk on the phone and go on outings. They’ve gone to such places as the Calgary Tower and the zoo, neither of which the Vancouver-raised dancer would have done with her older Calgary friends.
Besides, as the youngest of two siblings, Caron sees her Big Sister experience as ‘prep’ for when she is married with her own kids. Her Little Sister’s mom slips her child-rearing tips as needed.
Caron also fosters cats, two at a time, for an animal rescue organization. She’s down to just one after a recent adoption. Her nondancer roommate takes over cat-care when Caron tours.
This is the fifth year the Alberta Ballet has brought The Nutcracker
to the Royal Theatre.
Nutcracker audiences are like no other, according to Caron. For many, it’s a family Christmas tradition. They are more exuberant than usual dance-goers.
“You can feel the vibe off the audience,” Caron says.
She knows that out in the audience are little girls in their prettiest dresses watching in awe. Caron also was one of those little girls who follows a dancer’s every move on stage, and imagines being that princess en pointe.
Caron dances five different roles —
Nutcracker three in each performance here — in the tour that goes next to Edmonton and ends in Calgary. This means three complete costume, makeup, hair and even ballet shoe changes. Dancers don’t stop moving even when off stage.
“I don’t think the audience knows that,” she says.
Caron is unsure how many performances of
she has danced in her eight years with the Alberta Ballet. At least 300, the 25-year-old decides.
Then Caron remembers an earlier three or four as a student at the Richmond Academy of Dance. She trained at the Lower Mainland academy from age eight to 18, going directly to the Alberta company without a detour first through its apprentice program.
Caron, however, easily remembers her first
performance. She was 10, having auditioned and won a part in a Utahbased dance company’s performances at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre. She was one of what’s known in parlance
Nutcracker as “the party children.”
Before her largest audience yet, Caron found herself at a make-believe party among adult dancers.
“I remember my teachers — who were very strict — saying ‘you don’t talk on stage!’ ”
“But these professionals were talking on stage. They asked my name. I didn’t know what to do so I compromised — I whispered it,” she says.
Caron has a two-day break over Christmas in the Nutcracker’s Calgary run. It’s not enough time to go home to Vancouver, she says. It’s too risky, considering last year when her Calgary flight was cancelled due to snow and she took the bus through the snowy mountains.
This year, she’s invited to a company member’s home for Christmas dinner. Following the Calgary Nutcracker
run, Caron will visit her Vancouver family.
Matthew Lehmann and Mark Biocca perform as Russian dancers in Alberta Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.
Alberta Ballet’s Nicole Caron will dance three different Nutcracker roles in each performance at the Royal Theatre.