|Taking leading roles in the upcoming The Nutcracker are, from left, Clare Bassett, Michelle Mazur, Michele Matsubara and Desiree Bortolussi.|
The venue has seen and heard many stories, many silent dreams inwardly prayed by the hundreds upon hundreds of hopeful dancers who have walked through the door, taken up their position at the barre and begun their work at becoming ballerinas.
Someday, somewhere, sometime.
On this day, dancers who are young, strong and graceful are being put through their paces under the practised eye of David LaHay, who patiently corrects, every so minutely, the angle of an arm, the open embrace properly extended to the heavens.
Yet another long practice is in session, the final goal being the 24th annual production of The Nutcracker, staged by the Canadian School of Ballet and Ballet Kelowna.
The two Claras are open to his suggestions, and gamely repeat the same movements time and again until LaHay, founding artistic director of Ballet Kelowna, thanks them for their effort, and they are released to don costumes for an upcoming photo shoot.
Many young dancers set their sights on the starring lead as Clara in The Nutcracker; a select few see their name at the top of the pinned up sheet that ultimately hangs in that entrance foyer.
This year, the two young dancers have the honour of dancing across the Kelowna Community Theatre stage as the lovely Clara, whose most prized and cherished gift of a nutcracker, creates more magic than she could imagine.
The timeless Christmas tradition has everything a family audience would want to stir the holiday spirit in their hearts, along with Tchaikovsky's enchanting musical score.
Beginning with the opening act, the family gathers on Christmas Eve to exchange gifts and enjoy each other's company, as the mysterious Uncle Drosselmeyer presents Clara with a wooden life-like nutcracker.
Unable to stay away from the pretty gift, Clara returns to the Christmas tree at midnight and the magical adventure begins, transporting her to the Land of Snow, the Kingdom of Sweets, a meeting with the dreaded Mouse King, an encounter with the Sugar Plum Fairy and a dashing Cavalier prince.
In this year's show, the two Claras are Michelle Mazur and Michele Matsubara, who are both delighted to be chosen for the role from some 50 other ballerina hopefuls.
"I've been dancing since I was five years old, and this is my passion," said Mazur. "Every girl dreams of being able to be Clara and it's a great experience for me.
"Being able to dance with Ballet Kelowna is really special. The show is a little of everything, scary and fun and demanding. And it's really good exercise too."
Young Matsubara, a recent transplant to Kelowna from Japan, agreed, adding some of the demanding moves include "the fish position."
"You dive from up here (being held up by your partner) to down to the floor, and almost hit it with your face - but we don't," she said. "It's very high up there; it's my first experience with being held that high, so you have to get used to it."
For the two Claras, The Nutcracker will also be their first introduction to performing a pas du deux, a must-do for all aspiring ballerinas, and important step forward in their dance advancement.
Both young dancers were ecstatic to see their names alongside the coveted Clara role, and plan to pursue dancing careers, in particular taking on the next most-coveted role of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
This year, the dazzling role is shared by Desiree Bortolussi, a second-year ballerina with Ballet Kelowna, and Clare Bassett, who is in her third year with BK.
"There was a lot of smiling and screaming," Mazur said, along with a "lot of jumping up and down," recalling the reactions to being cast as Clara.
Lori Larson, a former owner of the CSB, added the role is so special for the young dancers, that those who are coming up through the ranks are often seen watching the action in the glassed-in studio and mimicking the intricate dance steps during practice.
This year, the show will also feature Victorian carollers under the direction of Alexandra Babbel and a Snow Chorus, which add to the ambiance of the evening.
As in past years, there will also be a special performance, Making Memories, which brings in an audience of 500 school children who would otherwise not be able to attend the production. All go home with a stuffed-to-the-brim Christmas stocking.
"At the end of the show, all of the dancers line up on either side of the corridor, and say goodbye to the kids," Larson added. "It's a really nice moment."
What: The Nutcracker, a Christmas tradition performed by the dancers of the Canadian School of Ballet and Ballet Kelowna.
When: Friday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Where: Kelowna Community Theatre
Tickets: Available at the Kelowna Actors Studio box office, 1379 Ellis St., 250-862-2867, BalletKelowna.ca.