Nanaimo’s Kirkwood Academy is staging a Christmas classic for the 20th time, and co-director Bev Martyn said while some things have changed, others have stayed the same.
On Nov. 22 the local dance studio presents Tchaikovsky’s 1892 ballet The Nutcracker at the Port Theatre. It tells the story of Clara, a young girl who at Christmas goes on an adventure when she is gifted a magic nutcracker by her godfather, Drosselmeyer.
Kirkwood is Martyn’s family’s business and she’s been a part of every Nutcracker performance since they started staging the ballet in 1988. Her first role was as a reindeer, but she’s been on the production side since 2008.
“I’ve always been involved in the background helping my dad paint the scenery and my mom [with] choreography so it was a natural transition to be this role that I’m taking on now,” Martyn said. “It’s been a lot of fun and you don’t realize what you’ve learned along the way.”
Kirkwood’s Nutcracker has become “much grander” over the years, Martyn said, going from a 50-cast member miniature version of the ballet in its first year to a production now numbering more than 150 people from age four to “grandparent age.”
She said there are about two dozen adults in the ballet, many of whom will be joined onstage by their own children.
“A lot of those parents coming back are actually ex-dancers, so that’s been really neat. Two of them were once Clara, who is the main role, and so that’s been lovely to have them back involved,” Martyn said. “And other kids have just grown through the roles, starting as buffoons and going up to principal roles now.”
This year the part of Clara is shared by 10-year-old Lilika Kovacs and 12-year-old Naiah Kulla, who have both been dancing for the past six years. They’ve been a part of past Nutcrackers but this is their first time in the lead role.
“It was hard at first to memorize everything but it’s so much fun when the whole production starts coming together,” Kulla said.
“I’m sort of both nervous and excited,” added Kovacs.
New to the production entirely is Doug Roszmann, who plays Drosselmeyer. He’s never worked with a dance company before as his background is in drama, but he said it was a challenge he always wanted to take on.
“It’s been really exciting,” he said. “I mean, the skill level these kids bring is really quite remarkable.”
While Kirkwood’s Nutcracker production has grown and changed over time, Martyn said there continues to be a connection to the past. She said the scenery she painted with her father has stood the test of time.
“We’ve added to it but he was a scene painter in South Africa so he when he first came to Canada he painted these beautiful sets that we still use,” she said. “So that’s a neat part that’s stayed with it.”
WHAT’S ON … Kirkwood Academy presents The Nutcracker at the Port Theatre, 125 Front St., on Friday, Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 23 at 2 and 7 p.m. $30 General admission, $25 for students, $18 for children under 12, $25 each for groups of 10 or more. Available at the box office.