Look around the audience at this performance and you will see many young people who are experiencing The Nutcracker for the very first time. It’s a magical production filled with famous classical music, ballet, bejeweled costumes, spectacular sets and mischievous mice! The Nutcracker is the first live performance that many children experience and continues to be the quintessential catalyst for many young dancers to pursue a career in the arts.
As the Artistic Director of North Carolina Dance Institute, I encourage our students to audition each year. Several of our students, along with other Triangle area students, spend weeks rehearsing for the performances. They learn intricate musical phrasing of Tchaikovsky’s orchestrations and fun choreography. More importantly, they experience what it means to perform in a beautiful theater with a professional ballet company.
The children play an important part in the narrative of the story with roles such as Clara, the party girls and boys, the mice, the soldiers, and the shuffling truffles. One role that is integral to the story line is the Young Prince. The Young Prince first appears as Uncle Drosselmeyer’s nephew and then reappears in Clara’s dream. He reenacts the drama from Act 1 for the characters in The Land of the Sweets in Act 2.
North Carolina Dance Institute student Gage Gordon is one of the dancers playing the role of the Young Prince in this year’s production. This role can be challenging with complex musical phrases, choreography, stage combat and acting through gestures called pantomime.
It is a fun role, but requires intense concentration and memorization skills. Carolina Ballet dancer Zali Raffael leads rehearsals for the dancers playing the Young Prince. Zali played the role as a young boy with New York City Ballet, as did Artistic Director Robert Weiss. Gage is following in the footsteps of these dancers before him.
Some of these young people you see in the audience tonight may become inspired to find their way on stage in the years to come, and ultimately develop into professional dancers themselves. Perhaps one might even become the director of a world class ballet company such as Carolina Ballet. It all starts with The Nutcracker.
Enjoy the magic!
Kirstie Spadie is the Artistic Director of NC Dance Institute in Raleigh. She graduated with a BFA in Contemporary Dance from UNC School of the Arts and is an avid supporter of community outreach for Carolina Performing Arts.