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The Nutcracker ballet dances into Algonquin

Hopeful future dance moguls and established Canadian ballet brass pirouetted, pliéd, and chasséd smiles onto the faces of a crowd of over 300 at Algonquin Commons theatre Friday, Dec 8.

For those who are lost, those are ballet poses. The show was The Nutcracker – a beloved dance holiday classic performed around the world.

Since 1892, The Nutcracker story has been adapted to an infinite number of stages, and seeing it live has become a December holiday tradition for many – up there with the clout of carolling with neighbours and lighting a Christmas tree.

This version was put on by the Linda Jamieson Dance School. Jamieson, a longtime fixture in the Ottawa dance community and former professional dancer herself, choreographed and directed the production alongside Ellen Andrews. Andrews also works at the dance school and has an equally impressive dance-related resumé.

Both are certified Master Teachers by the Royal Academy of Dance.

Jamieson believes The Nutcracker is appealing because, “The story is about the imagination and the dreams of a child that come to life.”

On this night, dance school performers ranging from ages seven to 18 shared the stage with professional and principal dancer, Guillaume Pruneau, to bring Jamieson and Andrews’ take on the classic performance to life.

Pruneau plays the title role of Nutcracker Prince and is the only professional dancer in the enthusiastic cast.

He brings a wealth of experience to the role, including having spent time at the renowned Bejart Ballet Company in Lausanne, France, and has danced in countless lead roles at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal.

Seeing a dancer of his calibre supporting a whopping 104 young cast members (all students at Jamieson’s dance school) is a unique sight.

The show has garnered local fanfare for over two decades, and the dance school boasts many alumni who have gone on to dance professionally. This is Jamieson’s 22nd season at the helm of The Nutcracker, and excitement in the community still lives on. She said the success stems from the positivity of it all.

“With us, this is about peacemaking and happiness and growth and development. We’re not competing [in the school], and we’re all absorbing each other’s friendship, style and spirit.”

Jamieson also believes even those who have seen renditions of The Nutcracker before can enjoy it.

“We keep adding to the show every year. It keeps growing and we keep adding new roles…Our Nutcracker is very different. It’s very traditional, and yet very different from any production I’ve ever seen.”

As the audience filed in, first year police foundations student, Andy Quach, said that he’d heard of Jamieson’s production before, and that he has friends in the cast. His enthusiasm shone through.

“I’m excited to see the performance. I’m a dancer myself, and I just love to watch dances.”

The show features tall, colourful backdrops, countless eye-catching costumes and plenty of energy. Such a large cast keeps the pace up, especially during the opening number, where over 40 dancers were on stage simultaneously, leaving the audience with plenty to marvel at.

Before the curtains opened, Jamieson said in an ideal world the show would end with a standing ovation. She actually missed the mark. There were two.

If you’ve never experienced the magic of The Nutcracker yourself, maybe it’s time to start your own new holiday tradition. It’s never too late to soak up that cheer.

Matinee and evening performances run this Saturday and Sunday.

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