Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s rendition of The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition which has been performed every season at the Place des Arts since 1964. This season, dozens of young dancers (boys and girls aged 6-17) are featured in the production. Chosen from among the hundreds who audition each year, these talented performers appear as the Mice, Rats, Angels, Reindeer, Orientals, Matrioshkas, and Sheep.
All are trained by rehearsal master André Laprise, first assistant to choreographer Fernand Nault for 25 years on productions of The Nutcracker, former GBCM dancer, and a graduate of the École supérieure des Grands Ballets Canadiens. Each year, Laprise supervises the staging of the ballet and spends time “refining each of the roles for the kids,” he says. “In terms of training, I’m here to stimulate them, even in the lesser roles.”
A true Christmas classic, the Nutcracker ballet is based on the story written by E.T.A. Hoffmann in 1816. Although what is seen on the stage today is different in detail from the original story, the basic plot remains the same: a young girl who dreams of a Nutcracker Prince and a fierce battle against a Mouse King.
Nault brilliantly conceived this tale of magic and adventure, Laprise says. “He always wanted the ballet to be accessible and touch as many children as possible. This is a piece for everyone.” The dancing, the Tchaikovsky music, the sets by Peter Horne, costumes by Francois Barbeau, and lighting by Nicholas Cernovitch, create a total experience. Laprise says The Nutcracker is “a dynamic family atmosphere. It’s part of our DNA.”
Laprise is thrilled that new audiences will experience the Yuletide favourite. Enormous amounts of time and work goes into producing all the glitz and glamour that is The Nutcracker, but he isn’t shy to say that he has “the best job” of the season.