Carole Cave's dance studio brings her version of the Nutcracker to Sooke audiences.

Dancers provide a sugar-coated treat

Nutcracker in a Nutshell becoming a Sooke tradition

Tap dancing soldiers, hip hop mice and classical ballet are all included in this year’s Sooke Dance Studio production of The Nutcracker in a Nutshell.

The Nutcracker is a two-act ballet, adapted from E.T.A. Hoffmann’s story of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia on Dec. 18, 1892.

Back in its day it was not a success but it has since gone on to become a Christmas staple with ballet companies around the world. It is a tradition Carole Cave loved as a young pre-teen and she has brought that joy of dance and the start of a tradition to her students.

This year she has 40 dancers performing in The Nutcracker in a Nutshell and it is a joyous and frenzied period of activity.

“It’s a smaller group this year, there are lots of costume changes, it’s busy,” said Cave. “The dancers like it, the more costumes the better.”

The dancers, of all ages, have been rehearsing every weekend, with the principal dancers putting even more time than that.

This is the third year for the Sooke version of The Nutcracker and it is hopefully becoming a tradition for families. Each year Cave adds something to her original production. Last year she added the Waltz of the Flowers, this year it is the opening party scene choreographed by Kathie Hunwick.

Hunwick is the ballet instructor for the Sooke Dance Studio and is affiliated through the Lighthouse Academy of Dance. Cave said Hunwick teaches her students the Royal Academy program.

“For years she’s wanted to do the party scene,” said Cave. “It’s fun and a real dream to choreograph.”

Both teachers love the process. The hallway full of kids getting ready to go on stage, the flurried costume changes, the whole process makes for a very festive atmosphere, said Cave.

Two professional guest dancers will be a part of the program this year. David Beales who has performed with Goh Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Ballet Victoria and his partner Suzy Vining will dance in the Land of the Sweets as Spanish Chocolate dancers. They are doing their own choreography.

“The kids are so excited to have the guest performers, Cave said. “Both have dances with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. It’s great for the dancers, it’s an opportunity to mingle with them and watch them perform.”

Two of Cave’s dancers, Emily Albert and Emily Payne, will be dancing at Nutcracker productions in Victoria. Albert will dance for Alberta Ballet as well as for the local production while Payne will dance with Canadian Pacific Ballet.

“It’s another stepping stone for them,” said Cave.

This year some of the principal roles were filled through auditions, while other characters were given to suitable dancers or one’s the dancers requested. This year the audience can look forward to a new “treat,” the Dance of the Reed Flutes.

The Nutcracker in a Nutshell is a seasonal dance production for the studio dancers and it is also a fundraiser for Sooke Family Resources Society. Part of the ticket price will go to the local agency. Donations also come to the studio. This year, a beautiful sleigh used in one of the scenes was built and donated to the studio by the Prewett family.

Nutcracker in a Nutshell begins its seasonal run on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 5 p.m. and on Sunday, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. at Edward Milne Community Theatre. Advance tickets are available at Bee’s Knees and Sooke Dance Studio. For more information call 250-642-6607 or find them on Facebook.