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The Nutcracker: no easy ‘feet’

The Nutcracker: no easy ‘feet’

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Erin McNeill performed the role of Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker last year, and returns again this year. McNeill is one of the professionals imported for the show, off-Coast dancers who help teach the local performers. Reid Page photo

Kathleen Holmes, Artistic Director of Coasting Along Theatre, exudes enthusiasm, passion and laughter. If she brings half the energy to her production of The Nutcracker as she did to our interview, prepare to be wowed.

Mounting The Nutcracker is no easy feat. There is a cast of 65 in addition to a behind the scenes crew of around 30. Most of the principals and soloists are professionals from off Coast making the scheduling of rehearsals a very tricky business. “This production is a huge community effort,” says Holmes, also referring to donations received from local talent and businesses to help put on the show. “They say arts people have no business sense but it’s not that. It’s that we’re going to do it even if we don’t have any money. We find ways to make the world awesome.” Auditions began in September and Holmes has been working with local dancers ever since. “We work really hard, but we have fun,” says Holmes. Her description of bloodied feet and sprained ankles hardly sounds like fun, but she points out that dancers follow a similar regimen of training as athletes. “It’s just that when it’s show time, you don’t know who’s hurting.”

Being a small town production gives local dancers unique opportunities to learn from the professionals that Holmes brings in. “Erin Mc Neill (dancing the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy) was working with the Arabian dancers and she gave them pointers on how to fix their feet or why this wasn’t working, or that wasn’t working, so they are getting the kind of feedback that you don’t often get.” The life skills being imparted are also invaluable. “Discipline is number one,” says Holmes. “I’d hire a dancer in a heartbeat if I was a business owner. They are dedicated and they know the deadline. You learn to juggle your time, learn to be flexible as things keep changing, and you learn teamwork. So even if they don’t go into the professional dance world, all these experiences will help them.”

For the audience, Holmes promises something for everyone, from the dancing to the music to the costumes and sets. “Even special effects!” she says laughing. And as she rightly points out, “It just wouldn’t be Christmas without The Nutcracker.

The Nutcracker runs December 19-22 at Raven’s Cry Theatre with both evening and matinee performances. Tickets $29/$19 available at Scotiabank in Sechelt or by calling 604-989-6050. More information at

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