A bal­let like no other

The Nutcracker’s broad, sea­sonal ap­peal draws a more ex­u­ber­ant au­di­ence, dancer says

Times Colonist - - ARTS - JIM GIB­SON

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

Nutcracker

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

Nutcracker

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.

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