The Nutcracker is the highlight of their dance calendar, said three young ballerinas with bright eyes and near perfect posture.
Sitting amidst the tutus and tulle in the costume area at Parkdale’s Pia Bouman School for Ballet and Creative Movement, the girls were giddy with talk of the school’s upcoming production of the much-loved Christmas tale.
Jane Ernszt, Carolina Luiz-Pereira and Kiva Smith have each been dancing at Pia Bouman for about 10 years. All the girls have been performing in Bouman’s annual Nutcracker for the past six years.
The students at Pia Bouman spend hours and hours each week preparing for the performance. Bouman’s Nutcracker, which this year marks its 27th annual production, is Toronto’s longest standing performance of the famous ballet and the only one in Toronto performed by children aged 7 through to 18.
The effort and hours preparing are all well worth it once the performance comes.
“After the adrenaline is rushing I feel super energetic like I could go rule the world,” said 13-year-old Jane Ernszt from High Park. “It really makes me happy to know that I have accomplished so much.”
With more than 90 young dancers in the production, each are given the opportunity to move and grow into different roles over the years.
“Everyone ends up happy with their role because you really understand that the role has been given to you for your level and it suits you,” said Ernszt, who will perform as a Chinese Princess in this year’s production.
Although there are strict audition guidelines, everyone who does audition for the production is cast and Bouman choreographs a new show each year with dances to suit the performers involved.
“At first I thought I wouldn’t be a good Russian Princess, but I found out it is actually the perfect role for me,” said 14-year-old Carolina Luiz-Pereira from Etobicoke.
Characters like Clara, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Snow Queen are roles the girls said they aspire to someday be cast in and work toward.
The girls agree that through their involvement in dance and the annual production of The Nutcracker, they are learning valuable life lessons about friendship, commitment, hard work and self-confidence.
“Being a dancer really defines me,” Kiva said. “When someone asks me, ‘who are you’ I say, ‘I am a dancer’.”
After it is all said and done, the girls said they are left feeling happy and more confident about themselves.
“My favourite experience is the rehearsal,” Jane said. “The magic of seeing the whole thing come together and to see it go from nothing to this beautiful enchanting production.”
Carolina enjoys the moments just before each performance, with the hustle and bustle back stage as the dancers prepare.
“You get that nervousness, but you have to just relax and run on stage and do your part,” Carolina said.
For 14-year-old Kiva Smith, who will dance the part of a Chinese Princess and a Green Flower, it is the last few rehearsals leading up to the performance she enjoys most.
“You realize it is real and we are going to put on this beautiful production and people are going to come and they are going to like it,” Kiva said.
The Nutcracker hits the stage at Lismer Hall at Humberside Collegiate Institute, 280 Quebec Ave., Dec. 20 through Dec. 23.
Tickets are $15 to $40 for adults and $15 to $35 for students, seniors and children. Proceeds from the Nutcracker help to sustain the school’s Bursary Fund, which helps young dancers pursue their dreams of learning dance performance and creation.
Nutcracker dates and times: Thursday, December 20, 7:30 p.m. Friday, December 21, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, December 22, 2 p.m. Sunday, December 23, 2 p.m.