|Rachel Sousa, left, and Madison McMillan share the role of Clara in the upcoming|
production of Nutcracker.
But sadly, there are many angels, mice and snowflakes, but only two Claras are chosen each year - so few ever get the chance.
Still, sometimes dreams really can come true. Just ask Rachel Sousa.
Sousa is a 13-year-old French immersion student from K.L.O Middle School who has been dancing with Canadian School of Ballet since she was five. She performed in her first Nutcracker at age six.
"I've been an Angel, a Candy Cane, a Chef and danced in the opening scene before," she said, but all the while, dreamed that one day she would get to be the lucky girl chosen to dance with the Prince in the role of Clara.
"It really is a dream come true," she said.
As for 14-year-old Madison McMillan, this will only be her second time dancing in the Canadian School of Ballet and Ballet Kelowna production of Nutcracker.
"Last year, I was new to the school and they didn't really know what I was capable of, so I only danced in the opening scene," she said.
This year, however, she'll share the spotlight, alternating with Sousa.
"I always knew I wanted to do a lead role somewhere along the line, so this is a dream come true for me," she noted.
Taking on the role of Clara is one of the most time consuming endeavours a young ballerina can do. Not only have the girls kept up with all their regular classes during the week, but they gave up all their weekends since September for rehearsals. For the past month, it's meant spending five to six hours every Saturday and Sunday, trying to memorize and practise all the choreography.
"It would have been easier to just sleep here, too," joked Sousa.
The role of Clara requires dancing with the Nutcracker, who (spoiler alert!) becomes a Prince. For both girls, it's their first time doing pas de deux work with a male partner. It's also the first time they've been lifted into the air, hoisted high onto a man's shoulder then swooped down into position called a "fish."
What's it like?
"The first time was kind of thrilling," said McMillan, "but after that, you get the hang of it and you get to know and trust your partner.
McMillan will be paired off with Ballet Kelowna dancer Kurt Werner and Sousa will dance with BK dancer Eric Hall.
This will be the 23rd annual full-length Nutcracker featuring the dancers of the Canadian School of Ballet.
Lori Larson and Mel Brown never dreamed when they did the first one that it would still be going strong nearly a quarter of a century later.
Although the two women no longer own CSB, they still put together the Nutcracker each year, together with BK's artistic director David LaHay.
Over the years, there have been lots of changes, with the show taking on a more professional appearance every year. And since Ballet Kelowna began dancing with them 10 years ago, the show has become something much more than a winter-themed school recital. The professionals now are sprinkled throughout the show and Larson is hopeful that, eventually, there will be even more.
Alexandra Babbel's singers will back again this year, caroling in the pre-opening scene and filling the theatre with their glorious chorus during the magical dance of the Snowflakes.
While Larson and Brown have amassed a container load full of costumes and props since starting out in 1989, they are constantly trying to upgrade and improve each year.
"Some of the stuff needs to be refurbished and we want to keep up with the technology that's available nowadays."
Part of that technology comes via Robin Boxwell orchestrating some pyrotechnics for the show and the talented Tom Bradshaw overseeing production.
For the fourth year in a row, Ken Thom of Thom and Associates will sponsor an additional show on the Sunday, called the Making Memories show. Debbie MacMillan of Ballet Kelowna noted, "He's become known to the kids who attend the performance as Santa Ken."
Agencies such as the Boys and Girls Club, Cops for Kids, and Canadian Mental Health have worked together to identify both adults and children who might not otherwise get a chance to see the show and Thom has purchased every seat in the house so these people can attend.
"We also hand out stockings at the end of the performance," said MacMillan, noting, "for some of these people, it's the only Christmas gift they'll receive."
Anyone wanting to contribute to the stockings still can, by calling MacMillan at 250-764-4803.
What: Nutcracker, featuring dancers from Canadian School of Ballet and Ballet Kelowna
Where and When: Kelowna Community Theatre on Friday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre Friday, Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 15 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $25 youth, $30 seniors or $35 adults in Kelowna, available at Kelowna Actors Studio box office or online at balletkelowna.ca; Vernon tickets are $39.25 adult, $33.75 senior and $28 student under 18, available at TicketSeller.ca.