In the back of the showroom sat Lesa Dusich, finger pressed tightly to her chin and eyes squinting toward the stage, examining every move of her dancers. Dusich, executive and artistic director of the Reno Dance Company, was preparing her dancers for the 11th annual Nutcracker Ballet performance.
After 11 years of bringing a Christmas classic to northern Nevada, Dusich has managed to grow her company and expand her show to manage more than 100 kids from around the region. She said much of the changes made to her show throughout the years have been to stifle her boredom
“We started with teenagers doing the company work and over the last seven or eight years we have adults working in that part of the show, so the choreography of everything has changed as well,” she said. “I keep changing it and adding new things. I get bored so I can’t do the same thing over and over. I like bigger movements and I like them to be out there dancing and I don’t like the same person to be dancing, so it changes often and moves a lot faster than most ballets.”
The Nutcracker Ballet will be running through the weekend, beginning Friday and continuing until Monday, a time slot Dusich said feels appropriate given the Nutcracker’s tradition of Christmas. She noted Saturday’s performance having a special inclusion of students from Damonte Ranch High School’s Performing Arts Center and children from Big Brother Big Sisters, an exciting collaboration for her company.
“To see how it has grown and having the Damonte kids out and have room to place them. It gives me a lot of pride and I don’t know if I thought I could do that and do it every weekend,” she said.
With dozens of complicated routines and hundreds of dancers to manage, Dusich said the preparation for the ballet boils down to a formula. After holding auditions in September, then training newcomers and regular company dancers, arranging the pieces continues all the way up to final rehearsal.
“It is getting the kids together and getting them to understand how important it is and how well they have to work together,” Dusich said her biggest challenge. “We have to get the kids to understand that there are no pauses and it is not recital. People pay to you so it has to look that good.”
The Reno Dance Company operates out of three studios in Reno and Sparks and has a partnership with Danceworks that allows them to connect with continuously more performers. Dusich said the many other Nutcracker performances being given by major companies in the area have her crossing her fingers for a big audience -- an audience that would be shocked to know its inner workings.
“ I find that we have had better success with it right before Christmas. There are a lot more Nutcrackers who have a lot more money to put out in advertising and a lot more big-time sponsors, but I think when kids are around school and they are looking for something to do, it is nice that we are here at just the right time,” she said.
Dusich will be the first to tell you that expanding the Reno Dance Company from square one to the success it now finds did not come easy. Looking back, she said that completing another stretch of Nutcracker performances reminds her of humble beginnings.
“It is wonderful that we have gotten to this point where we can offer (community inclusion) and cover all those costumes and it is even better when people acknowledge it because for a little tiny company that doesn’t get a whole lot of funding or corporations behind us, we do sometimes 10 times more than the ones that do get the money,” she said. “When it is brought to light, I think some people say ‘how did you do that with what you have?’ It’s volunteers, dedication and dancers that go way out of their way so that we can do what we do.
“I think the best part is to see the changes I have made from 11 years ago to now and to see the growth of the dancers. I am fortunate to attract nice people, especially this year, and it is a lot of fun. To do what you love with people that you adore and share the joy in what you do, you can’t beat it.”
The Nutcracker Ballet will be featured in the Celebrity Showroom at John Ascuaga’s Nugget tonight at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Monday at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $19.95 to 34.95 for balcony through VIP seating. Senior discounts are available.
For tickets visit www.janugget.com.